In a book whose conclusions will be debated, Kennedy rightly suggests that quality journalism is not only salvageable, but...

THE RETURN OF THE MOGULS

HOW JEFF BEZOS AND JOHN HENRY ARE REMAKING NEWSPAPERS FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

A veteran media critic finds signs of hope as civic-minded billionaires do their best to revive newspapers.

Though the subtitle only mentions two moguls, the analysis devotes equal attention to three. Kennedy (Journalism/Northeastern Univ.; The Wired City: Reimagining Journalism and Civic Life in the Post-Newspaper Age, 2013) has been developing sources since he was a media watchdog for the alt-weekly Boston Phoenix, now defunct, and he knows that much conventional wisdom concerning the plight of newspapers misses the mark. He debunks the notion that newspapers were late to the internet game, showing just how early the leading ones jumped onboard. The problem is that newspaper sites offered content for free while charging for print. This wasn’t an issue when sites were so slow to load and few readers were accessing the internet for news, but it has since resulted in a broken business model, particularly since advertisers have fled print for the web, and the classifieds have largely gone to Craigslist. Though “moguls” often carries a negative connotation, Kennedy understands how publically traded corporations have decimated their newsrooms in the chase for profits, and many welcome the wealth of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Boston Red Sox owner John Henry as they try to keep the newspapers they bought (the Washington Post and Boston Globe respectively) afloat. As a cautionary tale, the author offers Aaron Kushner and the Orange County Register, which he attempted to revive with an emphasis on print but whose accelerated timetable showed how much more difficult the challenge can be with a comparative lack of resources. The answer, Kennedy suggests, lies not merely in moguls, but in the right moguls, ones who are committed to quality journalism as the key ingredient and who recognize that necessary risks might lead to costly mistakes. Though Bezos refused to make himself available, the author sees him as someone doing things right for the right reasons—an assertion sure to meet with rigorous arguments.

In a book whose conclusions will be debated, Kennedy rightly suggests that quality journalism is not only salvageable, but necessary.

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61168-594-7

Page Count: 296

Publisher: ForeEdge/Univ. Press of New England

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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