THE HOUSE THAT ROONE BUILT: The Inside Story of ABC News by Marc Gunther


Email this review


An informative account of how made-for-the-medium showman Roone Arledge turned ABC TV's news operation into a popular and respected source of programming. Drawing on interviews with a host of those involved (including eight with Arledge himself), Detroit Free Press reporter Gunther (Basepaths, 1984; Monday Night Mayhem, 1988) provides savvy perspectives on his enterprising subject's freewheeling stewardship. Although he'd already made a name for himself in sports, Arledge had little credibility with serious journalists when he took charge of the network's ailing news division in 1977. An imaginative and innovative broadcaster, however, Arledge eventually silenced his more vocal critics, bringing to the air Worm News Tonight, Nightline, This Week with David Brinkley, 20/20, Prime Time Live, and other programs that made ABC News a class act with mass appeal. Noting that the parent organization's profitability gave Arledge the means to develop talent (Sam Donaldson, Peter Jennings, Ted Koppel, Geraldo Rivera, Diane Sawyer, Barbara Walters) during the 80's Gunther points out that he also had the savvy to make creative use of technological advances. As times changed, however -- and competition arose, notably from CNN -- it became harder for Arledge to meet corporate bottom-line demands, especially when media stars were also becoming more independent and less willing to accept direction from their former mentor. While his career and authority fade slowly to black, the author implies, Arledge may take cold comfort from the likelihood that he could prove irreplaceable. While Gunther apparently couldn't bear to omit any of the gossipy details he unearthed about anyone ever connected with Arledge, his up-close and personal take on an elusive, albeit consequential, impresario sheds considerable light on the way the Global Village now gets and views its news.

Pub Date: March 10th, 1994
Page count: 376pp
Publisher: "Little, Brown"