June 2, 2023

Book Night to Detail Tribune Plunder

by Sonya K. Fry

Jim O’Shea had a front-row seat to the death of the Tribune Company and will come tot he OPC to discuss his book, How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers. He spent 27 years as a reporter and then Managing Editor of the Chicago Tribune. His in-depth story of the demise of the Tribune Company from the inside track is fascinating reading and is part of the bleak picture for print journalism. The Tribune Company was once among the most powerful media companies in the U.S. owning the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun, all of whom had major international news gathering operations.

The acquisition of Tribune Company by the real estate billionaire Sam Zell turned out to be, as O’Shea described it, “the deal from hell,” but the author traces the roots of this doomed situation back to the merger of the Tribune Company of Chicago and Los Angeles-based Times Mirror Company several years earlier. That deal, the largest merger in journalism history, was a bitter saga of shifting alliances, secret agreements and betrayals. Ironically, in November 2006, Tribune executives sent O’Shea west to be Editor of the Los Angeles Times when that paper’s staff revolted against Chicago directives on how to run the paper. O’Shea, sensing a shift in values from quality writing to quarterly earnings, refused to yield to his bosses and he became another casualty of the toxic deal. “Mr. O’Shea argues that what’s killing newspapers isn’t the Internet and other forces, but rather the way newspaper executives responded to those forces: ‘The lack of investment, the greed, incompetence, corruption, hypocrisy and downright arrogance of people who put their interests ahead of the public’s are responsible for the state of the newspaper industry today.'” – Bryan Burrough, The New York Times

O’Shea is an OPC member and a former board member. His career in journalism started as a U.S. Army reporter covering Korea for Stars and Stripes. He worked at the Des Moines Register following the war and then joined the Tribune in 1979. Currently he is back in Chicago as CEO and Editor-in-Chief of the new nonprofit Chicago News Cooperative which produces two pages of local Chicago news that appear twice a week in copies of The New York Times distributed in the Chicago area.

O’Shea’s Book Night will be held at Club Quarters on Wednesday, October 5. Reception begins at 6 p.m. with the Talk at 6:45 p.m. Books will be available for sale and signing. RSVP by logging in and signing up online, calling the OPC office 212-626-9220 or e-mailing.