The Powers That Be

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780252069413
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2000
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 792
  • Sales rank: 661,910
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

David Halberstam
David Halberstam
One of the most popular and imitated nonfiction writers around, David Halberstam wrote books that fused narrative storytelling with investigative reporting. The result: stories that hummed with energy and authority and reads as well as -- if not better than -- some novels.

Biography

A journalist, historian, and biographer, David Halberstam brought his idiosyncratic and stylistic approach to heavy subjects: the Vietnam War (in 1972's The Best and the Brightest); the shaping of American politics (in 1979's The Powers That Be); the American economy's relationship with the automobile industry (in 1986's The Reckoning); and the civil rights movement (in 1998's Freedom Riders).

His books were loaded with anecdotes, metaphors, suspense, and a narrative tone most writers reserve for fiction. The resulting books -- many of them huge bestsellers -- gave Halberstam heavyweight status (he won the Pulitzer for international reporting in 1964) and established him as an important commentator on American politics and power.

Halberstam was also known for his sports books. In The Breaks of the Game, which a critic for The New York Times called "one of the best books I've ever read about American sports," he took on professional basketball.

In The Amateurs, he examined the world of sculling; in Summer of '49 and October 1964, he focused on two pivotal baseball events: the Boston Red Sox's exasperating near victory over the New York Yankees for the 1949 pennant, and the 1964 season, when the Yankees lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 1999's Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made, Halberstam documented the making of a legend.

Always happy to extend his reach well beyond the subject at hand, Halberstam packed his books with social commentary as well as sports detail.

His writing routine was as strenuous and disciplined as that of any of the athletes he wrote about. To sustain his steady output of extensively researched, almost-always-massive books, he allows no unscheduled interruptions: "Most of us who have survived here [New York] after a number of years have ironclad work rules. Nothing interrupts us. Nothing," he once wrote in The New York Times. "We surface only at certain hours of the day."

Good To Know

David Halberstam's first job was as a reporter for a small-town Mississippi newspaper.
Read More Show Less
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 10, 1934
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      April 23, 2007
    2. Place of Death:
      San Francisco, California
    1. Education:
      B.A., Harvard, 1955

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 21, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Tremendous

    This book is a true achievement by David Halberstam. It is really something and I highly recommend it.

    The book follows the evolution of the information distribution business (aka: "The Media") and how the industry directly shapes our political institutions, foreign policy, war fighting, business environment, and culture. Halberstam details the origin and emergence of four icons of the media business: CBS News (radio & TV), Time, the Washington Post, and the LA Times.

    When I started this book, I knew a bit about a lot of the subjects (Vietnam War, Media, Congressional and Presidential History, etc), but this book did something remarkable. It connected the dots for me by demonstrating how information distribution is a connective tissue running between these topics.

    Another fascinating aspect of this book is all the parallels between the events documented in the book and the current revolution in the information distribution business as driven by the Internet, social media, etc. The technology may be different, but the manner in which these changes reshape society is striking.

    As the speed of information distribution increases, it alters the balance of power between institutions. Whether it's television enabling the President to directly reach citizens, thereby tipping the balance of power away from Congress and towards the executive branch. Or, the new media leading to the elimination of the old Party Bosses, whose primary function (gathering a crowd to ensure that candidates had access to the voters) and base of power was undercut by the ability of the candidates to appeal directly to voters. The speed of information reshapes the institutions of this country.

    And, it's hard not to see parallels between modern companies like FaceBook and the story of the L.A. Times. During the War, shortages of raw materials led to the imposition of strict rationing of supplies on newspapers like the Times. The Times was locked in a battle for supremacy with another local morning paper. The Times had to decide where to cut back in the paper, basically it could maximize revenue by cutting back on substantive content while maintaining its advertising/classified ads OR it could focus on the substantive content and building its subscriber base at the expense of advertising revenue. The Times decided to focus on substantive content of the war, losing advertising to its competitor. However, when the war ended, the advertisers came flocking back to the Times because of its massive subscriber rates, which made the Times the dominant paper and ensured its prominence in the market.

    In short, much like FaceBook, it matters less whether you have strong current revenue stream, just so long as you have the ability to reach a massive number of people. The mere ability to communicate information to a wide market of people is a tremendous asset, even if you have yet to monetize that asset. Of course, long-term, you have to be able to monetize it, but there is tremendous power in being able to distribute information.

    Overall, this book is tremendous and remains as timely and relevant today as when it was first published.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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