Will Dave Eggers Save Journalism?

Probably not, but his attempt is an opportunity for his many haters to take potshots

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People love to hate novelist Dave Eggers. Though often described as "arrogant" and frequently mocked by Gawker, the 39-year-old San Francisco writer's sins are not always clear. His resume is evidently bursting with good works. Eggers's two most recent books explored humanitarian crises in New Orleans and Sudan. (He donated a share of the books' profits to relief efforts.) He also runs a small publishing house, a literary journal (McSweeney's), and a charity that works to teach writing and literacy to urban children. He counts President Obama among his readers. This may sound like sainthood, but in the gossipy and often jealousy-ridden world of high literature, his successes (which gained him a screenwriting gig for this year's "Where The Wild Things Are" adaptation) make him a prime target.

Most recently, Eggers and McSweeney's have produced a one-off newspaper they're calling the San Francisco Panorama. The 320-page broadsheet hired big names like Stephen King as well as local laid-off reporters to construct an elegant rethinking of the modern newspaper, from the front page to the book review pull-out. The project's publisher says he wants to create an homage to newspapers and hopes to provide the ailing industry with ideas on how to reinvent themselves for print survival in the 21st century. Will Dave Eggers save journalism? Probably not. But his effort had handed critics an opportunity to restate their case. Below, the latest hate as well as a taste of the classics, plus a bit of dissent.

  • Fun But No Savior  The Economist loves the final product but sees little hope in it rescuing, say, the Baltimore Sun. "The fact that this is a one-off, $16 newspaper means it doesn't offer real tips for financial sustainability. Yet it is a beautifully produced work of print journalism, delivered in McSweeney's idiosyncratic voice"
  • Not Saving Anything  Gawker's Hamilton Nolan scoffs, "The whole thing sounds great. Except, of course, this six-month long niche literary project has absolutely nothing to do with newspapers or with the continued viability of print, which is dying as a mass medium, naturally, due to its obvious limitations."
  • Egger's Twee Literature  Gawker's Ryan Tate describes Eggers as "lord of twee literature." Also on Gawker, Richard Rushfield writes, "after spending years teaching writing to children, Dave Eggers appears to be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome and believes that grown-ups should write like six year olds rather than for them."
  • The Case For Eggers  Politics Daily's Alex Wagner pleads, "can we get some love for author and McSweeney's publisher Dave Eggers? Firstly, the guy is seriously committed to educational reform -- setting up his 826 tutoring centers in cities across the country. More importantly, perhaps, he's putting out some of the most compelling contemporary writing on victims of injustice (both domestically and internationally) through titles like 'What Is the What,' 'Zeitoun" and his 'Voice of Witness' oral history series. But beyond being worthy endeavors, they're actually really good stories."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.