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The Deal from Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  95 ratings  ·  21 reviews
In 2000, after the Tribune Company acquired Times Mirror Corporation, it comprised the most powerful collection of newspapers in the world. How then did Tribune nosedive into bankruptcy and public scandal? In The Deal From Hell, veteran Tribune and Los Angeles Times editor James O'Shea takes us behind the scenes of the decisions that led to disaster in boardrooms and newsr ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published June 28th 2011 by PublicAffairs
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Ethan Grove
Feb 02, 2021 rated it really liked it
"The Deal from Hell" is a little bit of historical perspective and lived-history, an exploration of two once-great institutions' past and the people who made them, and a reminder of some characters who and moments that unmade them. It reopens past traumas and anxieties, and exposes the avarice and greed that inspired terrible decision-making by a lot of people. It's very good, but infuriating because -- as we see so often -- it didn't need to be like this, or this bad. ...more
Pete Nickeas
Jan 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Fascinating. Interesting account of how things happened mixed with some general news media observations.
David
Aug 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: misc-nonfiction
Before I dive into this completely irrelevant and fictional review of Shea's The Deal From Hell, let me briefly discuss some maybe unknown information which is relevant to this book, and to the goodreads community:

1. In 2000, the enormous merger of two of the country's largest newspapers was put in motion. Those companies were the Tribune Company, most notably the publisher of the Chicago Tribune, and the Times Mirror Company, notable publisher of the LA Times.
2. The two companies were incompati
...more
Marguerite
Dec 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Deal From Hell does a thorough job of analyzing the demise of newspapers, particularly those owned by the Chicago Tribune, one of which was my employer for the better part of three decades.

James O'Shea worked as a reporter and editor at the Tribune and had a front-row seat and a role in the debacle that unfolded after the Tribune bought the Times Mirror Co. and the Los Angeles Times. My newspaper, the Daily Press, which O'Shea incorrectly identifies as the Newport News (Doh! Newport News is
...more
Dan Seitz
Nov 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The next time somebody blames Facebook or Google for the current situation of journalism, make them read this book. Well before Zuckerberg came along and before Google became a force in our lives, well before the internet in fact, O'Shea uncovers the dirty dealing, lies, and rotten decisions that exposed the newspaper and broader publishing industry to vastly more risk from the internet than was necessary. And, once that fell apart, in came venture capitalists with more money than sense.

It's not
...more
Brad
Oct 12, 2011 rated it liked it
O'Shea may think he's written a book about how profit-driven, ego-centric people ruined some of the nation's largest papers, but that's because his own biases are at work here.

Actually what this book does is paint a picture of why it's hard to run a newspaper as a for-profit business with the goal of constantly increasing revenue.

He belittles the bosses that want to print the stories "people want" involving celebraties and gossip rather than important news of conflict, politics, and holding go
...more
Dawn
Oct 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
The Deal From Hell by James O’Shea is about the changes of journalism. The truth is that news media is changing and it is in trouble. People rely on honest journalism not a quick by-line but actual journalism where someone has researched a story and found evidence and support then that journalist will retell the tale so everyone can understand and be informed. Instead our world is becoming increasingly full of sound bites and quick articles from the wire.

James O’Shea attempts to paint a picture
...more
Chris Aylott
Nov 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Boy, this stuff sounds familiar. Not because I was following the trials and Tribuneilations of the newspaper business over the last few years -- I wasn't paying that much attention -- but because so much of it sounds like what has gone around me for the last year or so. This is a great example of what happens when metrics fail to meet vision.

O'Shea tries to make a case that the "moguls and Wall Street" destroyed the newspaper business over the last decade. I'm not sure he succeeds, though he doe
...more
Tim Jin
Dec 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
When I think about the newspaper, I always assume as old media, but most of the population in the world get their news on print. I am writing this a few days after the bombing in Boston. Ironically, the next day after the tragedy, I saw more people reading this headline on print, instead of viewing it on a glowing tiny screens.

Maybe the newspaper should only print the paper when something major happens in our society. Most day to day news are just fluff pieces that is just taking up space. Do w
...more
Carol
Nov 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Two deals, actually, are described in O'Shea's book. One is the Tribune Company's purchase of the Times Mirror company, which made the Los Angeles Times the Chicago Tribune troubled siblings, and the other was the purchase of the Tribune by uberfinancier Sam Zell. O'Shea does a magnificent job of detailing both deals and their aftereffects. O'Shea shifts his narrative pace for each deal. The LA Times fiasco takes on a jack-rabbity stop-and-go feel as O'Shea talks of the caprices of the Chandler ...more
Brian
Apr 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: business-finance
The Deal from Hell chronicles James O’Shea (former editor of the LA Times) experiences working for the Chicago Tribune and LA Times as the company transitioned from Wall Street firm to privately owned enterprise. In fairness to the author he admits at the beginning he will have his own biases regarding the role of journalists and newspapers. The spoiler is that he believes newspapers should focus on big issues of the day and not local issues or celebrity type stories. He also resents the interne ...more
Marnie
Apr 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Have you ever read a really scary book before bedtime and then been unable to sleep with the lights off? As an employee of the LA Times, this fits the bill for me. I'm not going to say it's an accurate book. I honestly couldn't say. I find it easier to do my job if I don't get emotionally embroiled in things I have no power to change, but it was certainly compelling.

The author is open about the fact that the book has a bias to it and it sometimes reads like a bit of a humble-brag, but he does a
...more
Bill
Nov 10, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: business, society
If you lived within the orbit of Tribune Co. or the L.A. Times within the last decade, this book will be interesting to you. It's a quick read with a number of fine anecdotes. That means it's mostly inside baseball, so if you're looking for great insights into the fate of journalism in the (sadly likely) post-newspaper age, you'll want to look elsewhere. O'Shea throws in a handful of mea culpas but little reflection on how the narrow hard-news definition of journalism he espouses might be a cont ...more
Frances
Feb 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Compelling story about the purchase of Times Mirror (LA Times) by the Tribute Company (Chicago Tribune) and then the purchase of the new entity by Sam Zell.

It is also a story of print journalism and the challenges facing the newspaper industry.

This book was part memoir, part history, part reporting, a mix that worked quite well. It paints a really depressing and concerning picture, a completely appropriate for me to have read at this moment.
David Becker
Apr 12, 2016 rated it liked it
I suppose there's a good story here, about how the newspaper industry destroyed itself with a toxic stew of greed, short-sighted thinking, etc. But O'Shea most certainly isn't the one to tell it. He gets bogged down in details and buries any narrative drive in dull, workmanlike prose. Having worked in the newspaper business for many years, he did dome the service, I suppose, of reminding me of what preening, self-important gasbags high-level editors can be. ...more
Kevin
Dec 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading the story of the downfall of the Tribune (my hometown paper) and the LA Times. Many business stories are dull, but this one was not. It also touched on a couple of issues that I feel are very important: 1) If there is no journalism how will we know when the powerful (business or government) misbehave and 2) the prevalence of MBA / Finance leadership in our private sector has been, and will be, a primary cause of the decline of our country.
Garrio H.
Aug 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'm a little skeptical of some of the cause and effect lines drawn in the book but that's to be expected. James made it clear in the beginning of the book it would be written from a journalist's perspective. It was still a pretty fascinating look at the inner-workings of the newspaper business. I highly recommend checking it out if your into "sausage making" type books. ...more
Joseph Schlesinger
Aug 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
Powerful, almost heartbreaking, chronicle of the decline of a once-great urban newspaper at the hands of profiteers with little or no journalistic experience or appreciation for time-honored journalistic ideals.
Therman Lee
Jun 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Well-reported albeit biased insider look at the current state of print journalism and how it got here. Very easy to read. Recommended for journalism buffs.
Armand Emamdjomeh
Jun 02, 2012 rated it liked it


Kinda wish there was more there about the deal itself, and about how Tribune was brought to bankruptcy under the weight of its own debt. But then he wasn't really there for that either.
...more
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