THE CHAIN GANG by Richard McCord

THE CHAIN GANG

One Newspaper versus the Gannett Empire
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 More than a straight David-and-Goliath tale of nobility over force, this book blends detective story, drama, and strong research to create a riveting newspaper yarn and an unrelenting indictment of the seemingly boundless Gannett newspaper empire. Recalling his personal efforts in saving his own Santa Fe Reporter and his colleague's Green Bay News-Chronicle from extinction by the monopolizing tactics of Gannett newspapers, journalist McCord paints a portrait of an unethical corporation interested only in increasing profits and destroying the competition. In ample instances of dubious business practices throughout the country, Gannett operatives known as Dobermans wage demolition campaigns of innuendo, and use strong-arm tactics and sweetheart deals to bleed papers dry and put them out of business--hardly the cordial competition that Gannett claimed to engage in. McCord also knows how to tell his story: He skillfully moves between flashbacks and tight time-bound narrative, the former for weaving through the past 25 years of Gannett tactics, the latter for building tension during a circumscribed period, like the three days he spent in an Oregon judge's office illegally copying a confidential file that first proved Gannett's monopolistic practices. Despite the controlled storytelling and research, it is the character of McCord that carries the reader. Middle-aged, opinionated, constantly questioning why he embarked on ``The Green Bay Project'' and vacillating between feeling like a savior and a hired gun, he embodies the mix of ideals, rigidity, and relentlessness common to lone crusaders. His attempts to comprehend his colleague Frank Wood, who lured him into trying to save the Green Bay News-Chronicle, offer insights into the nature of friendship. For a firsthand look at how media corporations decimate the local newspapers that once reflected a town's character, this book could become a standard. (illustrations not seen)

Pub Date: July 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-8262-1064-3
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Univ. of Missouri
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1996