Poynter's Andrew Beaujon reports that BuzzFeed has hired a books editor, Isaac Fitzgerald. The BuzzFeed books section is a project of real cultural importance. What Fitzgerald does will help establish and define the relationship between the thriving and successful BuzzFeed, with its mastery of distributing brisk and engaging viral content, and the more stolid traditions of literary publishing.
Luckily for everyone involved, Fitzgerald tells Beaujon that he wants that relationship to be a constructive one. BuzzFeed is still deciding how its books coverage will work, but Fitzgerald has already settled on a guiding principle:
It won't do negative reviews: "Why waste breath talking smack about something?" he said. "You see it in so many old media-type places, the scathing takedown rip." Fitzgerald said people in the online books community "understand that about books, that it is something that people have worked incredibly hard on, and they respect that. The overwhelming online books community is a positive place."
He will follow what he calls the "Bambi Rule" (though he acknowledges the quote in fact comes from Thumper): "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all."
Negativity may have occasionally had its place, in the old way that people talked about books. But we are in new times now, and it only makes sense to establish some new and more affirming set of guidelines.
Before coming to BuzzFeed, Fitzgerald worked for the respected and influential McSweeney's publishing company, founded by the popular and widely beloved author Dave Eggers. His job there was not as an editor, but as something else very important and central to the publishing business: director of publicity.
Publicity is a job where you try to help people become interested in books and feel positively toward them, so that they buy books and the books' authors feel successful and everyone enjoys things very much. In some sense, it could be argued that the publicist is the best friend that books have. Now BuzzFeed will also be a good friend to books. This is very nice news.