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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

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.

“Kennedy rightly suggests that quality journalism is not only salvageable, but necessary.”—Kirkus Reviews

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

The Return of the Moguls chronicles an important story in the making, one that will affect more than just the newspaper business—it has the power to change democracy as we know it.

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 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 twist to the 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 and 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 newspaper business is at a perilous crossroads. This essential book explains why, and how today’s new crop of media moguls might help it to survive.

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“Kennedy collects insights from case studies of three American newspapers, arguing that wealthy, civic-minded owners are key to the survival of newspapers in America.”—Publishers Weekly

“This analytical and predictive book will be of equal interest to lifetime consumers of printed news as well those more familiar with digital platforms.”—Library Journal

“Exhaustively researched and authoritatively written, The Return of the Moguls gives readers a bird’s-eye view and an important understanding of the ongoing efforts — ambitious and in some cases, downright courageous — to reconstruct that business model while introducing us to some of the key people engaged in that enterprise.”—Boston Globe

“Dan Kennedy has written a fine book so we can inform ourselves about who is ultimately controlling the information upon which we all depend.”—
Cape Cod Times

The Return of the Moguls: How Jeff Bezos and John Henry are Remaking Newspapers for the 21st Century explores turnarounds at the Washington Post and Boston Globe, failed attempts elsewhere, and the overall limits and pitfalls of the “billionaire savior” model.”—Editor & Publisher

“Well-written. . . . Kennedy details how several nontraditional owners are reshaping urban newspapers despite increased competition from the internet and inherited declines in advertising and other revenues. . . . Recommended.”—

“One of the greatest strengths of Kennedy’s book is the historical context he provides. A pragmatist, Kennedy spares us both theories and romanticism in favor of real lessons from the successes and failures of newspaper owners.”—
Washington City Paper

“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 when the Internet has drawn away the advertisers that were once their lifeblood. 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 an 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, author of Googled and Backstory

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 the blog Media Nation. He is the author of The Wired City.

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 13:08:07 -0500