With the national television news outlets providing wall-to-wall media coverage since Saturday of the tragedy in Tucson, it’s not surprising that two children’s book award winners would be overlooked during a week of breaking news. But, to some who tuned into the Today Show on Tuesday morning expecting to see the Newbery and Caldecott Medalists, insult seemed added to injury. The program did indeed take a break from its coverage of the shootings during the second hour to interview an author. But it was an author who's not likely to win a prestigious literary award any time soon: Nicole Polizzi, better known to the world as Snooki, the Jersey Shore star more famous for her trash talk and wild partying rather than her literary chops.
Librarian/blogger Betsy Bird and author Jame Kennedy are making lemonade out of this TODAY SHOW lemon. They've kicked off a video contest called 90-SECOND NEWBERY which challenges any creative lover of children's literarture to make a video that compresses the story of a Newbery award-winning book (Honor books included) into 90 seconds or less.
As an example, here's a video of Madeleine L'Engle's 1963 Newbery winner, A WRINKLE IN TIME, amusingly abbreviated into 90 seconds.
"A Wrinkle In Time" In 90 Seconds from James Kennedy on Vimeo.
Betsy and James also have plans underway for a star-studded 90-SECOND NEWBERY Film Festival at the New York Public Library in Fall of 2011. So get out your Flip and condense an award winner! And spread the word!
SCBWI HQ is all abuzz about the snub as well. Says Executive Director Lin Oliver, "I can’t believe we have to continue to fight for recognition of what we contribute to society. Jeez Louise." Indeed!
Never an organization to sit back quietly, SCBWI decided to say a few words to TODAY SHOW producers via the letter below. They drafted similar letters sent off to the LA TIMES and the NEW YORK TIMES.
Jim Bell, Executive Producer, Today Show
Noah Kotch, Senior Producer, Today Show
379 E-1, 30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10112
Dear Mr. Bell and Mr. Kotch:
I am the Executive Director of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a non-profit international organization of 24,000 professional children’s book writers, illustrators, publishers, editors and agents. We are, if you will, the equivalent of the Writers Guild for children’s book authors and illustrators. On behalf of all our members, I have to express dismay at your decision this week not to run the traditional interviews with the winners of the Newbery and Caldecott Medals. The books that are granted these prestigious awards represent the best of what we have to offer children---great storytelling, strong values, a legacy of literature and hope and high-minded ideals. What you elected to run in that spot, an interview with reality star Snooki, represents the exact opposite.
Of course, we understand the need to attract audiences and maintain ratings, but we feel broadcasting should also serve the needs of citizens who are looking to inspire their children, to raise up their sights. The exposure that your show has always offered to the best in children’s literature is admirable. Why stop now? In choosing not to run the interviews with Clare Vanderpool and Erin Stead, we feel that you underestimated the intelligence of your audience. Parents are dying to get their hands on good books for their kids. Booksellers are eager to sell and promote good books for kids. In fact, the children’s book segment of publishing is the only sector that has not declined during the recession. It’s good business, good broadcasting and good ethics to use some of your program time to honor the best books for children.
On behalf of our industry, we sincerely hope you can find a way to remedy your decision. Looking forward to hearing from you.
Executive Director, SCBWI
We'll keep you posted as to what (if any) response is recieved from these media outlets.
In the meantime, let us know what you think about the TODAY SHOW's lack of coverage. Leave a comment.
Great letter. Let's home they rethink and reschedule!! Thanks for posting about this.
Enjoyed the 90 second Newberry too.
BLREGHGHHHH to the bad decision-makers at the Today Show! YAY to your post and to Lin and Stephen.
debbi michiko florence
Thanks so much for mentioning our 90-Second Newbery Film Festival! We're looking forward to some stellar videos. Everyone's invited to join. But really, I had no idea this year would be so controversial, what with the Today show and everything!
I love the Today Show. I am an avid watcher and I am horrified at this choice.
Hope the Today Show will make time to honor the award winners soon! :)
I posted to the TODAY show and reminded them that the children of TODAY are the veiwers of tomorrow...
Way to go SCBWI, I hope we have voice they can hear over Snooki's.
Great letter! I encourage all SCBWI members to write their own letters to TODAY@nbcuni.com and start a "Reading Riot". I've sent mine: http://amy-baskin.blogspot.com/2011/01/open-letter-to-today-show.html
Such a great letter! I appreciate the promptness of this response and how well written and organized it is. I hope the Today Show realizes the severity of their decision and can redeem themselves soon!
Hey, I love that you all stood up and said this so eloquently!
will tweet it now.
Hope Today's faux pas will give the books and awards even more publicity than they would have had if they'd followed their tradition.
History will probably be asking, "Snooki who?"
Great post, letter and contest!
You are all going to be so embarrassed when next year's Newbery goes to Snooki.
Bravo, SCBWI for the letter! I'm so glad they took a stand and spoke out. It makes me even more proud to say I'm a member.
In this celebrity-driven environment, I'm not a bit surprised at the TODAY SHOW's decision. The entire television media is driven by "reality" laden nonsense. The society is being dumbed-down. I only hope folks realize it before it's too late, but I doubt it.
Keep doing all that you do. There are less and less of us out there doing it and when we do, it's not scintillating enough to get coverage. Pitiful...
Great letter, and I think the Today Show made a terrible decision.
I feel like someone needs to start one of those Facebook petitions. Anyone know how those work? (Or has anyone started one yet?)
Great letter! We definitely posted the winners on our Facebook site and Tweeted about it. This time each year is a very special time in children's literature and we want to take the time to honor these authors. Thanks for reminding others to do the same.
Thanks for all the great comments, folks. (And LOL James!) Everyone see Amy Baskin's comment with the link to where you can voice your opinion to the TODAY SHOW, too.
Should we be surprised? What a sad commentary on our culture and on the choices made by Today's producers. Good for you, SCBWI, for standing up for reading real literature.
I don't watch TV so it would be duplicitous to suggest a boycott, but...
Thanks for sharing the SCBWI's letter to NBC, Alice. I'm also glad to see so many posts on the Today Show blog. When I posted my initial comment there this morning, I was the first complaint and comment #10 (and #11, because I had trouble posting). There are now 72 comments, and most of them expressing outrage. I hope NBC will listen and reinstate the interviews. If anyone else would like to add your complaint, see Amy Baskin's comment above to go to her blog where's she's linked to the Today Show blog.
Now, in all fairness, I'm sure Snooki's fans were still up from the night before... they just aren't the typical Today Show watchers of parents getting ready for work, students getting ready for school, and teachers and librarians getting ready to educate young minds.
Great letter, Lin and Steve! Thank you!
Well said, and bravo to both Lin and Steve for giving all children's authors a voice.
I am a parent who watched the Today Show on Tuesday, looking for a segment about the winners. Thought I missed it somehow, but apparently not.
Wonderful letter. Let's hope they read it and respond.
What a poor decision on their part. Although I doubt they'll pay much attention to the letter, I would hope they do. :(
SCBWI is so much more than a business and educational organization for children's writers and illustrators. It's an advocate for children's literature and its creators and an important voice for children and the books they want to read. Thanks you for standing up and making sure we're all counted.
I was discusted by the TODAY SHOW's decision to feature Snooki. It was a snub to children's literature and a call to us to remind the networks on occasion that we aren't all interested in non-reality/reality shows. How about something that has genuine value like award winning books? Shame on them and praise to Lin and Steve for giving us a voice.
Umm...did she really write it all by herself? I guess that could merit a few seconds of interview time. Oh, but wait, aren't the Newbery and Caldecott awards two of the most striven after awards in the profession of children's book writing? I mean, it's not like some authors dream of winning those awards and work their entire lives to produce something of that caliber..right?
Thank you SCBWI for not letting this go unnoticed. Literature is so important, and we can't let people forget it. Proud to be a member!
Fantastic and positively-charged response. Proud to be a part of this organization.
I stopped watching the Today show years ago. It has become more of a chance for celebrities to get free publicity than a real news show.
Glad SCBWI sent the letter. It's a shame that The Today Show made the decision not to have the award winners on. Makes me glad I never have time to watch the show.
LOVING the 90 Newbery! And thanks for posting the letter. I love that it talks about the part that I just can't get over... that Snooki is the _exact_opposite_ of the Newbery. There is something so stunning in the choice they made.
SCBWI author Heather Vogel Frederick just started a facebook page called "Campaign to bring 2011 Newbery and Caldecott winners to the Today Show" http://on.fb.me/hrt3Fm Please join it. As Heather says, "Remember Betty White and SNL? We can do this!"
I wrote and mailed my own letter. Really, TV has slipped and continues to slip into the gutter, and I guess if you live in the gutter, you like to know about who else lives there. I honestly thought the Today Show had a little more going for it. Apparently not.
In the wake of The Today Show decision, maybe it's no surprise that Governor Brown's new budget proposes to cut state funding for California libraries. It seems like we're characters in our own dystopian novel, headed for a future where the ALA is a forgotten acronym, libraries are closed 7 days a week, and books are quaint artifacts. I think I'll blog about it.
BTW, great post, fun contest and I'm glad the SCBWI took a stand.
Wow, this makes me more angry than I've been in a while. SCBWI's letter was perfect, though, and I hope it has some effect. Now I'm off to see what is involved to send my own letter.
I sent a complaint via a short form on the website. It's so short-sighted of them to go with the titillating rather than the timeless.
love the 90-second Newbery and your eloquent, spirited letter. Will tweet and fb, etc.
What a sad choice! Would sharing quality AWARD winning children's literature be such a bad idea? Are we dumbing down EVERY show on TV?
What a powerful letter! Please keep us informed on The Today Show's reply.
I think its a great letter too. When I heard this I was aghast at the decision of the Today show. I hope they remedy this soon.
Excellent letter. If you get a response, please post it.
Go Lin and Stephen! Despicable decision by the Today Show. Also very disheartening, since the producers must believe that more people would be interested in watching Snooki. Is that true? Somebody please tell me that's not true!!
What a wonderful letter. Please keep us posted on The Today Show's reply.
Someone could contact the family or teacher(s) of the little 9-year-old girl who was killed, and find out what (if any) Newbery or Caldecott books she read and liked. My guess is there is at least one. This is the approach news reporters should have taken - tie in the tragedy of the shooting with what is going on in a child's everyday life. Current event news of the good kind.
More great discussion of this going on at the Gottabook blog:
To compare the Today show's scheduling the "author", and I use this word so loosely, Snooki, rather than the 2010 winners of the Newbury and Caldecott awards, is like the Academy Awards selecting Howard the Duck or Glen and Glenda as best film of the year. What were they thinking? Or should it be why weren't they thinking? The Today show should apologize to their literary audience and schedule these winners to be on the Today show and spend an entire hour talking about the history of these awards.
@Rick I'll have no "Glen or Glenda"-bashing in this thread. Retract, please.
I'd really like to read these comments, but even with my reading glasses, I am unable to read (or even see) words printed in small pink font.
Ah... I wrote too soon! My computer hadn't finished loading, and now that the dark blue background appears, I am able to read the posts.
Alice, SLJ has an article today about the Facebook campaign to get the award winners on the show. (I happen to be quoted in it.) See:
To me, the decision to talk to a cast member of Jersey Shore rather than a couple of award winning author'illustrators shows us a sample of how difficult it must be to produce a television show in today's market. I'm sure the decision was based on some perception of the "demand" which currently exists within the Today Shows viewership. It's sad to find that viewers would rather listen to an unmotived, uneducated "celebrity" of a reality show which focuses on worthless topics and negative attitudes. Perhaps Ellen or Regis and Kelly would be a better choice to interview the intellegent people of our society.
Pooh to the Today Show for assuming all of their viewers are "Mental Mashed-Potatoes."
This is a frightening commentary on the integrity of the Today Show's programming department.
On a brighter note~I love the 90-Second-Newbery Film Festival!
This was world class, thanks for the letter, !@bose
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