Saturday, July 23, 2011


This summer I have been very active reading a number of different books covering a wide range of subjects. One of the best to come to my attention is THE DEAL FROM HELL written by the ex-Managing Editor of both the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times newspapers. Both are now in bankruptcy and James O’Shea, the author, has been fired from his last position with the Times.

The book first drew my attention because I knew several of the principal participants in this story personally. Major personalities in the book such as Charles Brumback CEO of the Tribune Company (now retired); Dennis FitzSimons, a long time Tribune executive; Michael Gartner, Publisher of the Des Moines Register and once News Director of the NBC Television Network; and James Dowdle, a Tribune broadcast division executive and later top executive of the Tribune Corp, all crossed my path frequently during my 40 some years in the advertising and broadcasting business.

If you have been reading my blog you may remember that I have long suggested that one of the major problems with the demise of both broadcasting stations and newspapers can be directly attributed to the major shift in ownerships from family dominance to banks/consultants/accountants and huge corporate interests. There have historically been hostilities and barriers between the journalists and management over creative necessities and service to the audience.

O’Shea is a gifted writer and journalist who has written an excellent analysis of the root problems that surrounded the near implosion of two great newspapers. Similar difficulties have influenced the broadcasting side of the business too, and I personally observed this situation while serving as a General Manager of television stations under family ownership, minority ownership and bank controlled management. Someday I will take the time to tell my story and analysis of this business conflict.

While I compliment O’Shea for his numerous accomplishments in journalism it is clear that he was always fighting a losing battle, and he remains very bitter having been terminated by the bean-counters. I suggest that O’Shea is both right and wrong in his theory of the Tribune Company’s ultimate collapse into bankruptcy.

O’Shea has presented a well-written book and provided an excellent case-study of American business as it is today. It is a book that should be read and studied at every American MBA University today. What is missing at this time is a balance between the two combative forces that exist in a business (broadcasting and newspapers) that has basic conflicting interests, which are the creative side of journalism, and the management side which is obligated to meet the interests of stockholders and bank loan repayment obligations. That is a very fine balancing act and only a few media companies have been successful in walking that tight-rope.

Your Commander highly recommends THE DEAL FROM HELL.


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