paper trail

The year in books; Claire Messud on creative nonfiction

Claire Messud. Photo: Ulf Andersen.

The hedge fund Alden Global is looking to buy national newspaper chain Tribune Publishing, which owns the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, the Daily News, and other papers. Alden is currently Tribune’s largest shareholder and, as the Wall Street Journal notes, “A deal would have far-reaching implications for an industry beset by sharp declines in revenue over the past 20 years that have led to a wave of consolidation and cost cuts.” Tribune has laid off reporters and shut down newsrooms in 2020 as well sold off its e-commerce business.

At the New York Times, John Williams recaps the year in books: Obama’s memoir, the American Dirt controversy, a changing of the guard at Knopf, the pandemic’s impact on bookstores and authors, the rise of antiracist lit on the best-seller list, and the death of literary giants including Barry Lopez, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Diane di Prima, John le Carré, and Stanley Crouch, have made for an eventful 2020.

Meera Selva looks at the ways in which governments around the world have used the pandemic as an excuse to crack down on journalists. Selva writes: “The biggest and most urgent danger to the future of an independent media is the new wave of political leaders conducting an all-out assault on the press.”

Writers are sharing end-of-year roundups: Race for Profit author Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor has contributed more than seventy thousand words of public writing in 2020, collected here; Astra Taylor, documentary filmmaker and author of Democracy May Not Exist, but We’ll Miss It When It’s Gone, shares her year in writing here.

This week on the Fiction/Non/Fiction podcast, Whitney Terrell and V. V. Ganeshananthan talk with Claire Messud and Brenden O’Meara about grasping facts in the era of fake news. O’Meara, a journalist and host of the Creative Nonfiction podcast, voices questions raised by the work of writers like Seyward Darby and Jean Guerrero: “How much do you impart your own voice on it? Do you just let these people tell their story, even if you categorically disagree with them, or find them just hideously, horrible people to be around, toxic people with toxic ideas?”