Carlos Lozada: It’s OK if readers use reviews ‘as a substitute for reading the book’

October 14, 2014
Category: Uncategorized

Carlos Lozada announced Monday he would leave his job editing The Washington Post’s Sunday opinion section, Outlook, and become its nonfiction book critic. He’ll replace Jonathan Yardley, who is retiring.

Over email, Lozada talked about his new job, and his plans for it.

Poynter: So why would anyone leave an exhausting job shepherding opinion copy into print every week for the leisurely life of a book critic?
Carlos Lozada: Editing Outlook was my dream job for so long, long before I came to the Post, actually, that it’s hard to imagine doing anything else. It’s really the best job I’ve ever had. But I’ve been doing it for five years, so I’ve been thinking about my next move for a while now. The prospect of trying to rethink the book criticism genre, which I’ve dabbled in, seemed like a fun new challenge. So when I learned that Jon Yardley would be retiring, I made my pitch. And if I do it right and the way I’m thinking about it, it won’t be leisurely at all.

So how do you plan to do the job differently?
I’ll continue writing a review every week, which will still appear in Outlook, but I plan to write a lot more throughout the week, focused on building a digital audience. Look for author interviews; short posts that highlight key nuggets from new books; deep dives on trends in nonfiction (like a piece on “The End of Everything” I wrote last year on all the books titled “the end” of something); and stories on the role books play in the life of Washington. Also, while I know that lots of people use reviews to help them decide which books to buy and read, lots of them also see reviews as a substitute for reading the book. I certainly do – there isn’t enough time to read everything, right? And I want to respect those readers and their needs, too, which is where I hope these other forms can help.

Wasn’t there some point where you were going to move into a different job from Outlook?
Yes, back in 2012, I was going to take on a new newsroom-wide role as enterprise editor for the Post. The job got caught in a management/timing snafu – basically the week I moved into it, we learned that Marcus Brauchli, the executive editor who created the job and wanted me for it, was going to leave the paper. So rather than move into a hazy role with an uncertain mandate during a leadership transition, I scooted back to Outlook, which fortunately hadn’t been filled yet. Not an ideal situation, but given what I’m going to get to do now, I think it was for the best. I joke with my colleagues that this time I’m really leaving…

The opinion shop seems like it has really been growing lately, just like the rest of the Post. Do you know who will replace you?
I can think of some really strong candidates for it. Looking forward to seeing what [Executive Editor] Marty [Baron] and [Managing Editor] Kevin [Merida] decide.

Last question: It sounds like you’ll be able to do some reporting in this job. Will you get into the business of bookselling? I can think of a company that might be really interesting to cover!
Ha! I don’t plan to cover the business of publishing – I’ll leave that for our great business/financial writers. There is enough between the covers for me.

DISCLOSURE: Lozada has written passionately about journalism clichés, so it pains me to present a conversation we had about his new job in one of the laziest, most clichéd and useless forms of a news story: The Q&A. (I have argued in the past that no one should ever publish them.) But he could only talk over email, and I am traveling this week, so this disappointing compromise is the best I can do.