Paper Losses is the story of the twenty-five-year struggle between the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press, two proud, family-owned newspapers that became pawns in the hands of the largest newspaper chains of our time, Gannett and Knight-Ridder. It is a story of personal ambition and corporate greed, of Wall Street and the courts - but, above all, it is a compelling cautionary tale about American journalism over the last three decades. Between them, the News and the Free Press claimed more readers per capita ...
Paper Losses is the story of the twenty-five-year struggle between the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press, two proud, family-owned newspapers that became pawns in the hands of the largest newspaper chains of our time, Gannett and Knight-Ridder. It is a story of personal ambition and corporate greed, of Wall Street and the courts - but, above all, it is a compelling cautionary tale about American journalism over the last three decades. Between them, the News and the Free Press claimed more readers per capita than any newspaper in any other major American city, but by the late 1980s both were losing millions of dollars a year. With Wall Street looking over their shoulders, Gannett and knight-Ridder sought a peculiar form of government relief that would allow the papers to continue in artificial competition - while promising their parent companies tens of millions of dollars in profits. But the simple solution soon becomes a complicated test of wits and wills between two long-time rivals: Alvah Chapman, Jr., the steely, Bible-reading chairman of Knight-Ridder, and Al Neuharth, the flamboyant leader of Gannett and the founder of USA Today. A battle that begins in Detroit rages across the land, from union halls and corporate boardrooms to the offices of legal legend Clark Clifford and Attorney General Edwin Meese. In the end, what Neuharth and Chapman believed could be settled in a polite chat winds up on the docket of the United States Supreme Court. Bryan Gruley weaves this many-layered and complex story into a fast-paced narrative filled with unforgettable characters and bitter conflicts. As riveting as Barbarians at the Gate, as incisive in its insights into the media business as The Powers That Be, this consummately reported and passionately told tale is one that has repercussions for all of us.
In this emblematic, worrisome and involving account, Gruley, a reporter for the Detroit News Washington bureau, describes how the Gannett Company and Knight-Ridder, owners of the country's two largest newspaper chains, tried to end the competition between their Detroit papers. Gannett, which dominated in the small-town market, had only recently acquired the conservative Detroit News . Knight-Ridder, which included the Philadelphia Inquirer and Miami Herald in its empire, owned the more liberal Free Press . In a strategy to regain dwindling readership and advertisers, the companies in 1986 proposed to form the Joint Operating Agency under which they would merge business operations but maintain separate editorial units. The JOA passed muster with the Justice Department, but protest groups challenged the arrangement until in 1989 the Supreme Court ruled the JOA was legal. Gruley provides deft sketches of the personalities involved as well as accounts of the legal battles and corporate maneuverings. He pulls no punches in discussing his boss, Gannett chairman Al Neuharth, whom he shows to be a hard-driving, vain dealmaker. He also empathetically presents the plight of staff members who worked under Knight-Ridder's threats to shut down the Free Press if the JOA was not approved. Ironically, the papers, according to the author, continue to hemorrhage money despite the JOA takeover--and still face the uncertainty of survival. (Nov.)
Bryan Gruley is the Chicago bureau chief of the Wall Street Journal. An award winning journalist, Gruley shared in the Pulitzer Prize given to the Wall Street Journal in 2002 for coverage of the September 11 terrorist attacks. A graduate of Notre Dame, Gruley was raised in Michigan and spent the beginnings of his journalism career working at newspapers in Kalamazoo and Detroit. An avid hockey player and amateur musician, he currently lives with his family in Chicago.