DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON: America's Newspaper Giants Struggle for Survival by Peter Benjaminson

DEATH IN THE AFTERNOON: America's Newspaper Giants Struggle for Survival

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KIRKUS REVIEW

About the demise of afternoon papers, and no better than it should be from the word-play. Benjaminson ticks off the well-known ""changes in American society"" that did in the afternoon dailies (the shift from early-rising blue-collar work, the delivery obstacles in daytime traffic, etc.). Then he notes that, while most have gone under, some are still struggling to survive; and suggests that a look at three of each will tell us something. But his first two chapters, about a third of the book, actually have to do with the ""war of nerves"" between Rupert Murdoch's New York Post and the Daily News: an afternoon paper whose morning editions are doing better, and a morning paper whose afternoon entry folded. The News should have imitated the Post's ""seductive warmth and sexual crackle,"" says Benjaminson--also taking the occasion for some psycho-social opining about why people read the Post: all that bad news (murders, etc.) makes them feel good because it didn't happen to them, no matter how bad a day they had. (This ""exciting fantasy world""--to quote from a single paragraph--is really what ""community and religious groups all over America have been demanding for years."") But not only is the Post losing afternoon readers, it's only kept alive, as Benjaminson notes, by Murdoch's tenacity and funds. . . while the retrenched and revitalized morning News is making money. This is a lesson for afternoon papers? At the other end of the country, we hear the old story of how the Chandlers finessed the Hearsts out of Los Angeles--capturing the expanding morning market for the Times (which they upgraded), leaving the shrinking morning market for the Herald Examiner. . . which, through Hearst's penny-pinching, sank to the ""bottom of the heap"". . . where, awaiting extinction, it serves as one of Benjaminson's survivors! There are crude accounts too of the fortunes/misfortunes of the Philadelphia Bulletin, Washington Star, and Oakland Tribune. Benjaminson seems to be stuck on the cleverness of his title--the phrase appears everywhere--but in plain language this is an inept piece of work.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1984
Publisher: Andrews, McMeel & Parker