Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dispatchers & Dispatches: Airlines & Newspapers Meet Their Connections at Gate Greed

This was the summer when two good friends of ours finally had long-gestating books published -- Dave Astor’s Comic (and Column) Confessional and Bill McGee’s Attention All Passengers.  (But please note: Those of you Googling the latter book who don’t know Mr. McGee on a personal level must refer to him as “William J.”! And Amazon insists that Dave's book was published in 2008!)

What are these two books about? Let their subtitles explain.
Astor: Finding Myself While Covering Syndicates, Celebrities and a Changing Media World
McGee: The Airlines' Dangerous Descent---and How to Reclaim Our Skies

While Bill’s book is obviously about the descent of the airline industry, Dave’s has a similar theme -- the descent of newspaper syndication in particular and newspapers themselves by extension.  No, I wouldn’t call it a “dangerous” descent – the death of a bunch of newspapers can’t be compared with the deaths of hundreds of airplane passengers.

But the causes of each industry's decline, as detailed by Dave and Bill, are remarkably similar – the greed of corporate America and its executives. That greed leads to the downsizing of good jobs, to mergers and acquisitions, to the maximizing of profits over the considerations of employees and consumers. It’s no surprise that Ralph Nader appears prominently in both tomes.

While Dave and Bill argue eloquently about how the industries they cover have specific attributes leading to unique corporate arrogance, they would both probably agree that newspapers and airlines don’t have any monopolies in this area. Take trade publishing, for example. Dave’s book – being a memoir of his 25 years at Editor & Publisher magazine before he was, well, himself downsized – also provides a good look at how business-to-business media play the same corporate game.

Indeed, I met Dave while we both worked at Marketing Communications magazine, and my wife met Bill when they were colleagues at Travel Agent. While Dave then stayed in one place for 25 years, I spent a few years traveling from one corporately mishandled trade pub to another. I covered the TV industry, where deregulation led to the consolidation of TV station owners (comparable to individual newspapers). Combined with the consolidation of content suppliers (as with the newspapers, also called syndicators), this reduced the numbers of both potential readers and potential advertisers, leading to, well, the consolidation of TV trade pubs.

Hey, I could write a book! Hell no, that’s an awful lot of work. I’m sure Dave and Bill were holed up in a cave the past couple of years!

But I could write something under my own name for a change. Or under my first name, at least. And so I have.

(photos by Les)



1 comment:

  1. Les, thanks so much for your excellent, insightful blog post! Yes, corporate greed is often the common denominator when comparing very different industries. And I had no memory of that photo of me from 30 or so years ago!