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The Deal from Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers Hardcover – Bargain Price, June 28, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (June 28, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586487914
  • ASIN: B006CDDCE0
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,961,447 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Kirkus, June 1, 2011
“Numerous books have covered endangered daily newspapers, but few relate the sad saga from the perspective of a top editor with investigative reporting experience… Given O'Shea's level of detail and candor, some journalism icons will almost surely lose respect within their field…A spirited, fascinating insider's account of a troubled realm.”

New Statesman, January 7, 2011
“This book is a passionate and heavily researched account of the case against the cyber-utopians.”

The Chicago Reader, Michael Miner, June 17, 2011
“The insider's tale O'Shea tells is that of an epic business disaster, placed in the context of the whole industry driving itself off a cliff…I'm 50 pages in and riveted. I expect to stay that way”
The Chicago Sun-Times, Michael Sneed, June 19, 2011
“Loaded with Tribune Tower mayhem and monkeyshines, bankruptcy testimony, sexual innuendo, triggered security alarms, and a hysterical Tribune terrace escapade involving former Tribune honcho Randy Michaels, the book’s publication comes on the heels of a Tribune desperately trying to revamp itself and its image.”
Time Out Chicago, June 20, 2011
“Former Chicago Tribune managing editor Jim O’Shea’s long-awaited book about what really went on inside Tribune Co..; does not disappoint. Blessed with an insider’s perspective and a journalist’s eye for detail, The Deal From Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers includes stunning new revelations about Zell’s hand-picked CEO, Randy Michaels.”
Library Journal, June 16, 2011
“Journalists and students of the practice will appreciate this detailed insider account of the forces that are remaking newspapers and the specifics of how the Tribune ended up bankrupt. O'Shea's narrative skills will engage readers in this compelling story.”
New York Times Sunday Business review, June 26, 2011 
“The Deal From Hell’ is chockablock with examples of what happens when bean counters take over newspapers… a strong, significant book… Mr. O’Shea offers balanced and nuanced writing throughout, not an easy task, since his sympathies clearly lie within the Tribune and Los Angeles Times newsrooms and not with the executives who all but wrecked them.”
USA Today, June 27, 2011
“James O'Shea occupied a privileged, and unusual, seat during the [newspaper] implosion. In The Deal From Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers, O'Shea shares what he saw and heard… His book stands out, though, because of its unforgettable details about what happened to diminish great journalism at the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. The more general indictments about the newspaper industry seem like weak gruel in comparison.”
Los Angeles Times, June 28, 2011
“Compelling reading…His dramatic telling of the lead-up to the Zell deal that would so soon sour is staggering… In the end, "The Deal From Hell" succeeds on the force of the story and the power of the case that O'Shea builds against the individuals involved.” 
NewCity (Chicago alt weekly), feature, June 29, 2011
“The Deal From Hell” is a candid and relatively unrestrained insider’s account of the near-destruction of two of America’s great newspapers. Heroes are portrayed and so, certainly are villains. Except the heroes are all gone now, and more than a few of the villains still flourish.”
New York Journal of Books, June 28, 2011
“James O’Shea has written an important book for anyone concerned about the future of journalism, its uncertain relationship to modern democratic societies, and the eternal balance between freedom and responsibility—assuming that we can turn off our iPods, iPads, and Netbooks long enough to read Deal from Hell from start to finish.”

Crain’s Chicago Business, June 15, 2011
“Journalists will enjoy reading about the veteran newsman's early days in the business, and industry watchers get a behind-the-scenes look at Wall Street's role….  He takes the reader all over the world — to the newsrooms of the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune and on a private jet to meetings with correspondents in the Middle East.  And he names names.”

Neiman Reports, June 15, 2011
“The plot of James O'Shea's book reads like a fast-paced novel: greedy owners, corporate intrigue, a boorish manager, and a staff revolt. Yet it's a true story.”

Financial Times, July 7, 2011
“This woeful story has never had such a good unpacking as James O’Shea, a former editor at the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, has given it in The Deal From Hell… In an exhaustively reported book, O’Shea makes a compelling case that greed, mismanagement and a lack of foresight had as much to do with the destruction of American newspapers as did the rise of the web…The Deal From Hell is a well-reported book, and O’Shea is armed with compelling statistics and vivid, damning anecdotes to make his point…Ultimately this is a book for people who, like O’Shea, love newspapers.”

Wall Street Journal, July 2, 2011
“The star-crossed merger is the right newspaper-decline story to tell, and Mr. O'Shea is arguably the eyewitness most qualified for the task.”
Cleveland Plain Deal, July 6, 2011
“The Deal From Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers" is a detailed, inside look at how greed, incompetence and hubris gutted two of the nation's leading newspapers…It was, indeed, a deal from hell, and O'Shea gives us a clear look at the devils involved in it., July 4, 2011
“The ‘Deal from Hell’ gives us a serious and informed view of the destruction of an American journalistic institution (or two of them, in this case). O’Shea shares some fascinating inside stories based on his front-row seat as editor in chief and his long-time relationships with people who gave him interviews for the book.”

Publishing Perspectives, July 5, 2011
“Mr. James O’Shea’s beguiling admixture, the eyewitness-cum-memoirist, combined with his Pulitzer-laden editorial pedigree makes for jaw-dropping vignettes, hilarious asides and harrowing portraits of pinstriped idiocy. But is The Deal from Hell important? Hell, yes. Every citizen in the republic — and every C-suite publishing executive — should hear what this book has to say, if only to discover how desperately besieged is our fount of Public Discourse.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 17, 2011
“The Deal From Hell" is a scrupulously reported account of how hubris, bad judgment, arrogance, bad timing and, yes, greed eviscerated one of the most prestigious media companies in American history… In a class with the best books that document the Wall Street crisis of 2008, "Deal From Hell" is the best account of what has happened to newspapers in the past decade.”
Publishers Weekly, July 18, 2011
“While recounting how business interests sought an improper place in public service journalism, O'Shea works in fascinating and funny anecdotes that make for an excellent read. For those who want an inside look at what makes American journalism work (and not work), O'Shea offers a unique and valuable perspective.”
Irish Voice, July 21, 2011
“O’Shea’s book is a fascinating fly-on-the-wall account of how powerful executives injured the newspaper industry.”

Tucson Citizen, August 2, 2011
“If you watched in dismay at the recent gutting of the Arizona Daily Star, this new book should be at the top of your summer reading list…How Wall Street bankers plundered great American newspapers to line their pockets is a story that will make most readers burn with rage. Based on exclusive interviews and testimony from bankruptcy proceedings, this narrative is filled with examples of backstabbing, double dealing, and outright insidious behavior or how big business is often conducted in modern America.” 

Windy City Times October 5, 2011
 “There are plenty of villains to go around in this book, a must-read for journalists and j-students who are going into debt to get a degree for an industry imploding from the weight of some really stupid mistakes.”
Brooklyn Ink
“What The Deal From Hell provides is the first real account of the crisis and a long overdue one at that. It gives a fantastically detailed history on two pillars of the American newspaper industry. On yet another level, it serves as a fascinating business lesson in how a media news giant that produced high-quality journalism could still fail so shockingly. It is a book well worth the reader’s time so long as it’s digested with a dash of salt.”

About the Author

James O'Shea, once managing editor of The Chicago Tribune and editor of the The Los Angeles Times, was most recently CEO and editor-in-chief of the Chicago News Cooperative. The author of two acclaimed books, O'Shea was a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Harvard in 2009.

Customer Reviews

This story will not be of interest to everyone, but will be informative to all who read it.
Seemed to have quite a lot of unnecessary background and left me wondering why it was written other than a opportunity to express sour grapes.
The editorial job is to create an audience by serving public need and desire for information.
Golden Lion

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Garnet Reviews on July 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
James O'Shea has filled in the blanks on what I know to be true. I was a long-time employee of The Times and witnessed many of the disgraces that Tribune and Zell put us through. Perhaps those who find it difficult to follow have a hard time jumping from one newspaper culture to another but believe me, having a "strange" culture thrust upon yours is also very, very difficult. Yes, the first thing Tribune did was get rid of the people in HR and vow to "change the culture." They did indeed change it, they demoralized, deflated and beat it down. The employees as a group went from being in love with their company to being in mourning for it.

The problems for newspapers as O'Shea outlines are true, to which I would add that the American public has lost a great deal of its intelligence and is happy with "headlines." (I would refer you to another book, "Idiot America.")

Sam Zell and his clowns were every bit as disgusting as O'Shea claims. I saw them give their rambling and foul-mouthed speeches (to large groups) and I received the many unreadable emails. The Tribune Company got lost along the way with its jealousy. All in all, tragic. You will especially enjoy this book if you witnessed any of the events. Nothing in the book surprised me, just completed some scenes that formerly had "rumor" status.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By J. Prescott on July 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Newspapers are about "the truth."
This book about newspapers seems like it's adapted from "The Twilight Zone."
And that's not a good thing for the people involved.
For those of us who still love newspapers, this is a must-read.
I trust the reportage from author O'Shea......his straight-forward style makes it a breezy read....even though I have no real concept behind the financial machinations that allowed this deal to happen.
We moved to Los Angeles in 1966, and since then, I doubt I've missed more than a handful of editions of The Times.
In the good old days, I couldn't wait to read Jim Murray, Jack Smith, Paul Conrad and the Wizard of Id.
Now, I wince each morning when I remove the paper from the plastic bag, fearing some new degradation to the product.
(I love the writers, editors and reporters, who despite the odds, put out the daily miracle).
But O'Shea's premise that newspapers are beholden to the community and not the stockholders (in theory) is absolutely correct.
His narrative of the people and events of the Times/Tribune takeover be those "Zellots" is truly a sad, sad tale.
We baby boomers may still be in love with paper and ink...but as the next generations get their news from this computer or tablet....we can only guess where the LA Times and Chicago Tribune will be in 5-to-10-years.
O'Shea is correct as he laments an ownership/leadership of Sam Zell, Randy Michaels, and Lee Abrams (who was so overmatched in his job, he should have been charged with a felony for impersonating someone with brains. Lee obviously never recovered from taking the purple acid).
I give credit to O'Shea for clearly and easily letting us see what happens when Fleet Street meets Wall Street.
Newspapers may ultimately go the way of the Betamax, but this chronicle of an institution under fire, is well worth your time.
Good job!
(Maybe O'Shea will copy edit this review......and make it understandable)!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robert A. Erlandson on July 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
James O'Shea had a ringside seat at the Chicago Tribune and then the Los Angeles Times as incompetent executives and greedy stockholders -- few of them with any clue how newspaper journalism really works -- sucked the lifeblood out of them in tragic mergers, which affected other newspapers, including the Baltimore Sun where I worked for 43 years.

Then came Sam Zell, a real estate mogul who knew even less about newspapers, who bought the Tribune Company, which included the Times-Mirror chain, the Chicago Cubs and a bunch of smaller newspapers and some TV stations for a pile of money he didn't have.

Zell appointed the equivalent of journalistic idiots, led by a former shock jock, to run his new newspaper empire. And run it they have, into bankruptcy and damn near into the ground.

The incompetence of the Zell management team combined with the loss of advertising to new electronic media, has crippled once-proud and prestigious newspapers and left them empty shells of their former selves.

Mr. O'Shea paints a dark portrait of this exercise in mismanagement and he paints it very well. His book is worth reading because not only newspapers but many other companies suffer today from this type of incompetent management.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By krt66 on July 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The title is clumsy and the hardcover dustjacket artwork is awful, but this is basically a trenchant insider account of the horrible rigged "deal" that took the Los Angeles times into the pit where it now languishes -- initially at the hands of hotshots from the Chicago Tribune company, and finally into the grubby mitts of Sam Zell and his fee-fattened Wall Street co-grifters. The hellish deal was a real precursor to the general financial collapse of 2008, in that investment bankers and their ilk basically stuffed themselves with fees, no matter that the overall numbers made no sense. They'd be outa there.
And in Los Angeles, the feckless Chandler family -- descendants of robber barons, flim-flam artists, right-wing crooks -- pissed away an important American newspaper that had once had two decades, at least, of greatness.
O'Shea, as a former editor both in Chicago and Los Angeles, has the inside view. His writing can be turgid and full of newspaperese, and a little self-serving, but the book is worth a read for anyone interested in what the hell happened to the Los Angeles Times (and the Chicago Tribune and Newsday,etc.). It didn't have to turn out that way.
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