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THE DEAL FROM HELL by James O'Shea Kirkus Star


How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newpapers

by James O'Shea

Pub Date: June 28th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-58648-791-1
Publisher: PublicAffairs

An examination of failing American newspapers from a unique perspective.

Journalist O'Shea (Dangerous Company: The Consulting Powerhouses and the Businesses They Save and Ruin, 2002, etc.) rose from investigative reporter to managing editor of the Chicago Tribune and then editor in chief of the Los Angeles Times. Three years ago, the author departed the Times under attack from a management team that cared more about executive bonuses and corporate profits than quality journalism. Numerous books have covered endangered daily newspapers, but few relate the sad saga from the perspective of a top editor with investigative reporting experience. O'Shea identifies factors in the overall economy and in the cultures of publicly held companies that have contributed to the declines of newspapers. Refreshingly, though, he also names names, identifying the villains in the corporate suites and the newsrooms themselves, with an overarching emphasis on what happened to diminish the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, once proudly independent newspapers. When Chicago-based businessman Sam Zell, without experience as a media mogul, purchased the newspaper company—as well as a package of assets that included the Chicago Cubs and urban real estate—any hope of vital journalism disappeared. Given O'Shea's level of detail and candor, some journalism icons will almost surely lose respect within their field. As for the individuals in the corporate suites of his two former employers, the financially irresponsible, sexually immoral and perhaps illegal conduct of those men (no women appear as villains in the narrative) should embarrass them to no end. Because O'Shea is an accomplished reporter, he does not make the mistake of slinging around accusations without detailed evidence, but at times, he seems to be settling scores, which might diminish his stature in the minds of some readers.

A spirited, fascinating insider's account of a troubled realm.