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The Return of the Moguls
How Jeff Bezos and John Henry Are Remaking Newspapers for the Twenty-First Century
Dan Kennedy

Publication date: March 6, 2018

2018 • 296 pp. 6 x 9"
Media Studies / Business - Media & Communications / Journalism

$29.95 Hardcover, 978-1-61168-594-7

$24.99 Ebook, 978-1-5126-0178-7

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

Will the return of old-style individual ownership spark a renaissance in the newspaper business?

Over the course of a generation, the story of the daily newspaper has been an unchecked slide from record profitability and readership to plummeting profits, increasing irrelevance, and inevitable obsolescence. The forces killing major dailies, alternative weeklies, and small-town shoppers are well understood—or seem obvious in hindsight, at least—and the catalog of publications that have gone under reads like a who’s who of American journalism. During the past half-century, old-style press barons gave way to a cabal of corporate interests who were unable or unwilling to invest in the future even as technological change was destroying their core business. The Taylor family sold the Boston Globe to the New York Times Company in 1993 for a cool $1.1 billion. Twenty years later, the Times Company resold it for just $70 million. The unexpected story, however, is not what they sold it for but who they sold it to: John Henry, the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox.

A billionaire who made his money in the world of high finance, Henry inspired optimism in Boston because of his track record as a public-spirited business executive—and because his deep pockets seemed to ensure that the shrunken newspaper would not be subjected to further downsizing. In just a few days, the sale of the Globe was overtaken by much bigger news: Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and one of the world’s richest people, had reached a deal to buy the Washington Post for $250 million.

Henry’s ascension at the Globe sparked hope. Bezos’s purchase seemed to inspire nothing short of ecstasy, as numerous observers expressed the belief that his lofty status as one of our leading digital visionaries could help him solve the daunting financial problems facing the newspaper business.

Though Bezos and Henry are the two most prominent individuals to enter the newspaper business, a third preceded them. Aaron Kushner, a greeting-card executive, acquired California’s Orange County Register in July 2012 then pursued an audacious agenda, expanding coverage and hiring journalists in an era when nearly all other newspaper owners were trying to avoid cutting both.

The Return of the Moguls chronicles a story in the making. Is a return to old-style individual ownership sparking a renaissance for the newspaper business, and if so, how?

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Reviews / Endorsements

“America’s newspapers are in crisis. In this timely and much needed book, Dan Kennedy tells us how enlightened owners are reinventing their publications to keep them operating at a time the internet has drawn away the advertisers that once were their life’s blood. We all have a stake in whether they succeed. An informed citizenry is as crucial to democracy as the right to vote. This is excellent, valuable research, written in a clear concise style. With this book Kennedy establishes himself as one of our most knowledgeable scholars on the changing communications landscape and how the internet is having as profound effect on our culture as the invention of the printing press had on the people of that era.”—Bob Schieffer, CBS News, author of Overload: Finding Truth in the Deluge of News

“There is no ‘fake’ news in Dan Kennedy’s important, scrupulously reported account of why news and newspapers are vital to a democracy. If newspapers are to survive, their proprietors must dare throw ideas against the wall, seeing what sticks. He shares what Jeff Bezos has boldly heaved against the wall with inspired success at the Washington Post, what John Henry has dared at the Boston Globe, and he does not shy from sharing failures as well as successes. Kennedy, who reports carefully and writes clearly, is too honest to offer panaceas for the financial ills of newspapers. But to understand a vital challenge to our real news-starved democracy, read this book.”—Ken Auletta

DAN KENNEDY is an associate professor in the School of Journalism at Northeastern University in Boston and a panelist on WGBH-TV’s Beat the Press. He was a reporter and media analyst at the Boston Phoenix for eleven years and a featured media columnist for the Guardian for five years. He writes on the news media for, the Nieman Journalism Lab, and other publications as well as hosting the blog Media Nation. He is the author of The Wired City (University of Massachusetts Press, 2013).

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 14:01:13 -0500