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Media Man: Ted Turner's Improbable Empire (Enterprise) Paperback – October 17, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Auletta wrote an excellent New Yorker profile of media mogul Turner in 2001, but this expanded look at the complex figure lacks depth. Auletta describes how Turner, an "obstreperous" Southerner, changed television by turning a tiny Atlanta UHF station into a national cable powerhouse. He covers Turner's other professional moves, such as the launch of CNN and the sale of his company to Time Warner, and addresses darker moments, too, illuminating Turner's difficult childhood under a domineering father, and, later, his divorce from Jane Fonda. To write this retrospective, Auletta conducted nearly 20 hours of taped interviews with the executive. Unfortunately, it seems the author didn't use much of that transcription. Although he touches on Turner's major life events and business decisions, Auletta provides what feels like an executive summary of a much larger, more satisfying book. In describing Turner's education at Brown University, he gives scant detail about quirks and high points, then notes, "He was a first-class jerk." Sections on Turner's business acumen—the real meat of his life—receive the same glossed-over treatment. Turner's tale doesn't unfold naturally, but rather, progresses like a PowerPoint presentation. The biography is loaded with detail, but very little personality—unfortunate, given its fascinating subject. 6 photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“A nuanced and engaging portrait of an immensely complicated man. . . . The book hits its highest notes in depicting how a mercurial cable mogul revolutionized the news industry—and then watched as the manic boom-and-bust cycle of the 1990s swallowed up and regurgitated his prize innovation. . . . Readers may find more detailed analyses of the merger of AOL and Time Warner, but they will find none more entertaining, straightforward, or comprehensible.” (Washington Post Book World)
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Product Details

  • Series: Enterprise
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton (October 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393327493
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393327496
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,376,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ken Auletta has written the Annals of Communications column for The New Yorker since 1992. He is the author of eight books, including THREE BLIND MICE: How the TV Networks Lost Their Way; GREED AND GLORY ON WALL STREET: The Fall of The House of Lehman; and WORLD WAR 3.0: Microsoft and Its Enemies. In naming him America's premier media critic, the Columbia Journalism Review said, "no other reporter has covered the new communications revolution as thoroughly as has Auletta." He lives in Manhattan with his wife and daughter.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Newton Ooi on September 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book provides a short but insightful biography of Ted Turner, the southern businessman known for his business acquisitions, media influence, sports franchises, and Jane Fonda. The book lays out the private and public life of Ted Turner from his birth to his recent donation of $10 billion US to the UN. Included in it are chapters on his schooling, his relationship with his father, his marriage to Jane Fonda, his entry into the media market culminating with CNN, and his later entry into progressive politics.

The book is easy to read and filled with colorful insights into his life. Major financial and business ventures are covered in detail, with analysis of both legal and money aspects. The book is well referenced, drawing info from interviews with Mr. Turner, his friends and family, and secondary sources such as other books and newspaper articles. The book can be read in 1 day or less, and I recommend reading it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Moldyoldie on August 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Media Man by noted media journalist Ken Auletta gives the casual media novice a fine overview of the personality, passions, and career highlights of Ted Turner, a man who transformed television by making 24-hour cable news a force with which to be reckoned and helping make cable per se almost a household necessity.

An interesting point of his business personality as depicted in this book is that he's not afraid to take risks, yet is supposedly very uncomfortable with debt. So why did he practically mortgage his company in an effort to acquire CBS? The reasoning isn't really fleshed out to a satisfying degree. All we really take away from this account is how he desperately wanted to expand into broadcast network television; not on how such a massive and high-profile acquisition would benefit viewers, shareholders, and employees. Taken in context with the entirety of the book, one concludes that the move was as much ego-driven as Turner would maintain that it was driven to create cost-efficiencies. We also don't get a clear sense of what's behind his fervent anti-unionism and vaunted parsimony, only that they were definite traits.

While getting a taste of his upbringing and subsequent family life is interesting as background, probably the most compelling part of this book is Turner's boardroom battles as part of Time Warner, and later AOL-Time Warner. Here we get a true sense of the personalities and motivations at work, and at odds, within the changing paradigms of corporate media. It's this that made the book worth reading and where Auletta shines as a writer--the kind of writing that made Three Blind Mice so noteworthy and memorable.

At only about 180 pages, it's difficult to recommend this book at full list price, or even Amazon's substantially discounted price, but a used or library copy is definitely worth the time to get to know a little more of this broadcasting and entertainment pioneer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mel Blanc on February 14, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I picked this book up at a competing brick and mortar book store. I did so mainly to learn why CNN had been dethroned by FoxNews, and also because I had an interest in the man credited with the invention of 24-hour news.

Overall, the book was satisfying. Turner's life is covered rather well, but the details are missing. Every chapter seems more of a summary of something larger than a fact-filled chapter that it is intended to be. Then again, I wasn't expecting a thorough biography given its scant 180 pages.

Regardless, this book will give you a good idea of the man that is Turner. Why did he strive for greatness? Why did he create CNN? How and why did he lose CNN and his fortune? Why is his heart set on world peace? These questions - and others - are neatly answered.
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