The bad news is that the Washington Post is shutting down Book World, their excellent Sunday section, moving some reviews to other parts of the paper, and taking everything else from Book World online (the staff had already been cut in the past anyway, so at least no layoffs were needed at this time).
The worse news is that someone who should really know better thinks this is a good thing.
Terry Teachout, drama critic for the Wall Street Journal (and librettist for Paul Moravec's opera "The Letter", that premieres in Santa Fe next summer) thinks this "means nothing" to him because he reads all newspapers online anyway:
The problem here, obviously, is that for someone who's been in journalism since before Opera Chic was born, Teachout seems to forget that publishers -- including his bosses at News Corp. -- still take the (very costly) trouble of printing the Wall Street Journal on (very costly to purchase, print, and deliver to your door or local newsstand) paper not because they're nostalgics of the good old days of Hemingway, but because they cannot charge advertisers nearly as much for their website's ads. Because most newspapers content online is still 100% free -- remember Times Select?
Print survives, among other reasons, because of the very real issue of ad revenue (if Teachout really thinks paper is 100% obsolete, he's free to resign from the WSJ, move all his content to www.terryteachout.com and try to make a living only over his website's ad revenue -- OC is not exactly holding her breath that he'll try that anytime soon). Perez Hilton doesn't need print and can indeed make a nice living out of the web. A dude who writes about plays and books? Not so much.
The problem here, again, is not that the Washington Post is trying very generously to give Book World the great chance to become cool, a 100% online entity, while instead the rest of the paper remains lamely attached to grody paper and stinky ink. The problem is that they're dumping coverage about books the way other papers are firing their music and film and theater critics left and right -- the Washington Post takes Book World online because -- literally, and so sadly -- arts coverage is not worth the paper it's printed on.
The -- very expensive -- newsprint remains in use for "hard news" (whatever that means nowadays). Arts? Whatever. Make the staff as lean, young and inexpensive as possible, then move the content online where column inches cost nothing.
So, "the destiny of serious arts journalism to migrate to the Web" thing, as TT writes? Yeah, but that's actually part of the problem. It's migrating now because it's expendable. Because those of us who like it will probably look for it online anyway. And because serious book lovers -- just like operagoers -- are a shrinking, aging, not-that-relevant-anymore section of the public anyway (when in doubt, compare Junot Diaz's -- or John Updike's -- sales to The Dark Night's box office; or Rene Pape's record sales (and digital downloads) to Leona Lewis's or Kanye's.