Sunday, January 16, 2011
I may be wrong about this, of course, but I think that IF this segment had been a big success for the Today show in the past, they'd've run it again this year. Wouldn't you? So, my thinking is that there's a problem and that it's not personal. It's business.
And honestly, having seen the Today segment in question many times over the years... well... from my point of view, it's usually not good TV. And if I ran a TV show, that would be a problem for me.
Not only that, but let's face the fact that no other network morning show has featured the ALA award winners (or has had a book club for kids) over the past few years nor did they step into the gap this year. It was great that the Today show did this segment in the past, but clearly, something changed for them. The lack of other networks diving in again says to me that this type of segment, for whatever reason, doesn't work for them, either.
Those of us who love children's literature should try to figure out what has changed and/or why this doesn't work, and then figure out how to overcome that obstacle.
I think one challenge we face here is that while the ALA awards are big news to all of us, unlike the Oscars, Grammys or even the People's Choice Awards, there's not a national audience of millions for the awards nor weeks of public speculation about who might win. Sure, we all talk about it, and some schools do, too, but it doesn't create the same level of buzz.
As a result, when the winners are announced, it's not "news" on the same level as those other awards, so there's no built in audience for a segment on the morning shows. Is this sad because books and authors should be news? Yes. Should we try to change that culture? Yes. But that doesn't mean we should expect others to do something that doesn't make sense to their business, for whatever reason.
Yet here's something we all know first hand: there is a hunger among parents and teachers and kids and grandparents and uncles and aunts for information about good books. I suspect the Today show knows this, too.
The question then is this: what other way can our books and/or award winners be presented to make for better TV, to make it more than anchors interviewing authors and illustrators about books that usually aren't yet part of the public conscience (though will be over time)? Our field is vibrant, influential, and about more than awards, so what should we do?
Maybe we can find an incredibly charismatic author who can talk about bigger children's lit stories than just the winners... to somehow give context and/or resonance? Can we uncover and present stories of kids in action with a book or books? Can we get an energetic bookseller talking about all sorts of amazing books from the year? Can we get Ashley Bryan to lead the entire Today staff in poetry call and response or have past award winners/best sellers use their "celebrity" or or or or? (I mean, honestly - having JK Rowling talk with the award winners is very different TV than having Matt Lauer do it.)
Clearly, I don't know the answer, as my above examples prove. But I'm positive that if we want to focus on things like network coverage for our field, we need to think out of the box here, because the message I take from the Today show is that the "box" doesn't work for them. It's painful and sad... very... but let's take this moment as one of opportunity and see what we can come up with.
We're creative types, after all!
Posted by Greg Pincus at 11:11 AM I'm reading: A Different Take on the Today Show and the Newbery/Caldecott Winners