Executive editor Cuozzo offers a surprisingly dignified, un-Post-ian memoir of his paper's fight for survival and the tabloidization of the American media.
In March 1993 the ailing New York Post was fighting for its life. With the end in sight, Cuozzo pulled out all the stops: "We might be dead, worldbut oh, baby, they'll remember how we went out! And if we're gonna die after 192 years, damn it, we're gonna rock!" With this bitchin' battle cry, he and a ragged editorial staff coopted the Post's own pages to fight the bankruptcy court that had awarded its ownership to a "buffoon": The tabloid of Alexander Hamilton and Pete Hamill had been passed on to Abe Hirschfeld, a builder of open-air parking lots and Manhattan's Vertical Club gyms. The Times applauded the staff's brassy, pungent rebellion. It had taken a long time to get a good review from the traditional journalistic establishment. Thirteen years earlier, the Columbia Journalism Review had called then-owner Rupert Murdoch's in-your-face tabloid a "force for evil." Cuozzo, who started at the Post as a copy boy in 1972, recounts its journalistic life under five different owners, focusing on Murdoch and real estate entrepreneur Peter Kalikow, who both operated the paper, says Cuozzo, as a symbol of their manhood. From the more sedate remove of his features department, Cuozzo celebrates the testosterone-filled newsroom. He tells how Murdoch brought in Aussie and Fleet Street brawlers and turned longtime owner Dorothy Schiff's "stodgy" liberal paper into the newspaper that humanized the news and "put the nation back in touch with itself." Cuozzo mixes essays on the virtues of tabloids with colorful Post-iana, including the paper's famous headlines (500-lb. sex monster goes free) and its fierce take-no-prisoners rivalry with the New York Daily News.
Cuozzo's is the account of an affable management mensch. It's a great story, but it might be fun to read a spicier version, one as thoroughly uninhibited as the newspaper it celebrates.