Who Killed CBS: The Undoing of America's Number One News Network

Peter J. Boyer, Author Random House (NY) $18.95 (361p) ISBN 978-0-394-56034-2
As a New York Times television-industry reporter and former CBS Morning News media critic, Boyer ought to know the answer to his titular question. But, rather than settling on a single culprit, he offers a host of unsavory suspects around which a convincing case could be built: the vain, insecure Dan Ratherwhom no reader will ever be able to take seriously again; Richard Leibner, agent to Rather and dozens of other CBS News stars; Van Gordon Sauter and Ed Joyce, two successive CBS News presidents, the former a two-time veteran of the position; Lawrence Tisch and more. In the end, the central cause of the problems at CBS News was moneyjust as the network economy went soft, the costs of running a news division, with its astronomical salaries for on-screen ""talent,'' skyrocketed. Boyer charts this imbalance with a keen eye for the arrogance, pettiness and greed that motivated many of the major players in the ensuing scramble. His is a tale of many small stories, sharply sketched, although the overlapping chronologies blur often enough to keep the bigger picture frustratingly out of focus; more careful attention to dates throughout the narrative would have helped enormously. Readers also will occasionally detect the telltale buzz of an ax-grinder at workBoyer's characterizations are obviously slanted, although no clear bias emerges. Nevertheless, the book succeeds as a vivid and compelling expose of the dirty business of television news, leaving no illusions in its wake. Photos not seen by PW. First serial to Vanity Fair; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternates. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1988
Release date: 04/01/1988
Genre: Nonfiction
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