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Editor in Chief Sara Nelson laid off at Publishers Weekly

Sara Nelson, editor in chief of Publishers Weekly, has been laid off this morning, according to the New York Times Arts Beat blog. Nelson is the victim of restructuring at PW's parent company, Reed Business Information, which also owns Library Journal and School Library Journal, among other publications. (Reed is laying off 7% of its staff.) Replacing Nelson will be Brian Kenney, editor in chief of School Library Journal; he will now run all three of Reed's publishing trade magazines.

No knock on Kenney -- who I don't know -- but this is an inexplicable decision, shortsighted and flat-out wrong. Nelson is a force in the publishing industry: a smart commentator, an enthusiastic advocate and an editor with her eye on the future, not the past. (She is also, I should note in the interest of disclosure, a regular participant at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.)

Ironically, in what looks like her last column for Publishers Weekly, posted on the Web this morning, Nelson writes about "feeling kind of hopeful," in part because of her hope "that -- please, please -- publishing business firings are coming to an end, at least for a while."

She describes a couple of new initiatives for print and online, discusses some new books she's been reading and concludes: "In other words, while everything suggests that the road ahead is going to be rocky, like many others in BookLand, we're still on our feet -- and moving forward -- because we're still passionate about what we do."

Passion is passion, of course, and business is business. But this is bad business, undertaken without any attention to editorial development, to the ideas and engagement a magazine such as Publishers Weekly needs.

-- David L. Ulin

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As West Coast Correspondent for Publishers Weekly, and one who was hand-picked by Sara Nelson to come on board at the magazine, this news is devastating. Sara's genius lies in her ability to perfectly articulate and interpret the news of the publishing industry. Discerning and bold, she has certainly made me a better writer and a more analytical thinker about this business of books. I owe a great deal to Sara, and will miss her terribly.

Sara did a good job at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. I'm sure it wasn't easy after learning about her "layoff" or whatever that was just before she arrived. I enjoyed reading Sara's book, So Many Books
So Little Time.

Read the comments in The New Times about Sara and PW. There is a lot of love and hate there. If you love books and writers, you want PW to live and get better. Reed people should watch the TED.com talk, by Polish newspaper designer, Jacek Utko, on redesigning to save newspapers. Some of those things might help PW.

I hope Sara writes a book about her years at PW and the world of books, editors, and agents.


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