Writing in the weekend's Wall Street Journal, Reason Editor in Chief Matt Welch writes about former L.A. Times Editor James O'Shea's new book The Deal from Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers. The review begins like this:
With each passing year, the golden era of modern newspapers—roughly the four decades from 1960 to 2000—is coming to resemble the kingdom of Hungary during the dual-monarchy's salad days of 1867-1914. What once looked like a permanent empire is now revealed as an ahistorical lucky streak undermined by overreach and the desire among captive citizens to be free.
No one went to Hungarians for a dispassionate analysis of the Treaty of Trianon, the postwar agreement in which they gave up vast swaths of territory, so it's a bit much to expect newspaper lifers to be objective about the journalistic world crumbling around them. But that's exactly what their self-mythology—rooting out the truth, consequences be damned!—requires the rest of us to hope for.
This inevitable conflict of interest ultimately hobbles James O'Shea's otherwise interesting "The Deal From Hell." Mr. O'Shea, a writer and editor at the Chicago Tribune and, later, at the Los Angeles Times, uses the Tribune Co.'s calamitous merger with the Times Mirror Co. in 2000 as a stand-in for all that's wrong with the newspaper business. In his best moments Mr. O'Shea aims to highlight "the shortcomings and mistakes to which all parties" in the industry "plead guilty." But too much of the book gives his own party—the "fools, knaves, idealists, and dreamers" of the newsroom—a get-out-of-bankruptcy-free card.
Read the whole thing here.