Talking Heads: Books, Authors, and Television News
by Hollis Griffin — Denison University
November 26, 2009 – 10:44
Books and authors are a far more quotidian element of television than selections to Oprah’s Book Club and the handful of blockbuster, widely publicized book tours. For every in-depth interview with Glenn Beck or Larry King, there are countless other places on television where books and authors pop up in programming, particularly news programming, that is increasingly cost-conscious and multi-platform. Connecting publishers to opportunities in screen media has long been a function of public relations professionals, but deregulation and corporate consolidation, developments in satellite technologies, and an increasingly cash-starved television news business have made promotional services like satellite media tours for books and authors a common practice. This all occurs at a time when the traditional book tour, wherein an author goes on the road to visit local bookstores and read to audiences, is increasingly cost-prohibitive. Furthermore, publishing industry marketing practices are increasingly scaling toward more honed, specific appeals to consumers, a trend that has long characterized television industry practice but one that has been less prominently the case in the realm of selling literature. Understanding the manifold relationships that contemporary media practices forge between pages and screens raises many methodological questions for scholars of media and culture. How can academic criticism understand the ways that books and literature circulate via screen media? How do various conditions of regulation and capital alter this circulation?
This is a clip of a January 2009 interview of a local fiction author that aired on the morning news program of WINK-TV in Ft. Myers, FL. A first-time fiction author published by a small vanity press, Jane Kennedy urges viewers to order her novel online because it is not available in local stores. As a throw-away moment, the clip underscores how television’s symbolic economy can sit in uneasy relation to the networks of distribution that exist for other media forms. The segment underlines how the notions of unlimited connectivity and instantaneous availability that are so characteristic of convergence television can run counter to book publishing’s long-tail economy.
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