Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Slate magazine quarrels with author's analysis of why newspapers "have gone to hell"

In a review of ex-newspaper exec James O'Shea's book The Deal From Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers Slate says "he appears to make the reportorial mistake of coming to conclusions first and not letting the evidence, no matter how strong, shake him loose from them."
"In O'Shea's view, the cause of the undoing of the newspapers owned by the Tribune Co. and Times Mirror, as well as other newspapers in the country, has not been the Internet, or declining circulation, or long stories and 'skimpy attention spans, or arrogant journalists.' It's been the reaction of newspaper executives to those forces. He writes: 'The lack of investment, the greed, the incompetence, corruption, hypocrisy, and downright arrogance of people who put their interests ahead of the public's are responsible for the state of the newspaper industry today.'
"The problem with O'Shea's analysis is that important newspapers whose executives and owners weren't stingy, greedy, incompetent, corrupt, hypocritical, or arrogant have also been forced to reduce news pages, cut whole sections, close bureaus and decimate newsrooms.
"Both the Washington Post and the New York Times, long controlled by families that have taken immense pride in providing the public service of great journalism, have bent before recent market forces and made the cuts that O'Shea deplores," Slate writes before concluding:

"O'Shea, an experienced reporter and editor, misses the story and writes poorly. If only we could send his terrific assignment back to the rewrite desk for fixing."

Click on the title to read the whole review.

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