Conglomerates and the Media

Patricia Aufderheide, Author, Todd Gitlin, Joint Author, Thomas Frank, Joint Author New Press $23 (189p) ISBN 978-1-56584-386-8
Media properties are big business, no matter their form. So a movie studio making a blockbuster film about dinosaurs would be well-advised to buy up a publishing house to spew out books based on the movie's saurian antics, or a magazine to print fawning profiles on the actors involved. Whether any of this--the movie, the book or the magazine--is any good is not important. Profits are. As companies like Time Warner, News Corp. and Gannett cut swaths through their particular industries, money piles high, but quality remains low, if it exists at all. Such arguments are put forth by some of the more prominent media thinkers of our time in this new book from the publishing house founded by Andre Schiffrin, who no doubt has his own ideas about conglomerates. Miller delivers a horrifying invective against a publishing industry currently devoted to self-help kitsch and celebrity dreck (his word). The New York Times's Gene Roberts excoriates the newspaper world. But what this collection of essays lacks is the point of view of the businessman. Yes, the cultural landscape has been dumbed down considerably, thanks to the rise of conglomerates. That thought is scary enough, but the pressure to make money is so intense that few are willing to risk their necks for quality--not the moviemakers, not the editors and, regretfully, not many of the writers at small-town newspapers, including ones owned by the great Gray Lady. This book is frightening, though the inclusion of points of view from the moguls themselves and the so-called ""little people"" they rule at the bottom would have made it even more so. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
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