CHANGING FOCUS by Alecia Swasy


Kodak and the Battle to Save a Great American Company
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 A journalist's unfocused take on Eastman Kodak and the ripple effects its troubles have caused over the past decade or more. Drawing on personal interviews and secondary sources, Swasy (Soap Opera, 1993) tries and fails to tell at least three stories. First, there's the cautionary tale of a firm that once ruled the wide world of photography only to be brought low by its own complacency and by aggressive rivals like Japan's Fuji. Next come mawkish accounts of how the commercial woes of a traditionally paternal organization affected host communities (notably, Rochester, NY) and laid-off workers, who had taken their highly paid jobs for granted. Included as well are discontinuous and inconclusive reports on the wrenching campaign mounted by George Fisher (an outsider recruited at vast expense from Motorola) to put the company back on an upward track. Unfortunately, the author (business editor at Florida's St. Petersburg Times) does not capitalize on the drama inherent in any of these narrative lines. Nor does she integrate them into any kind of coherent whole that could inform corporate executives, makers of public policy, municipal officials, those threatened by downsizing, or merely interested parties. Veering on and off course, Swasy intersperses raw reportage on the plights of the unemployed with such things as briefings on a spinoff (Eastman Chemical) that may or may not be an object lesson for its erstwhile parent; as a practical matter, her potpourri approach strongly suggests that she has no idea whether Kodak can thrive in a competitive new environment where digital technology promises to have a decidedly negative impact on film suppliers. A blurred picture of an enterprise whose triumphs and travails are not to be captured in the editorial equivalent of tintypes. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8129-2463-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Times/Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1997


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