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Book Review: 'Newhouse'

Posted on


Current Status:
In Season
Thomas Maier
Biography, Pop Culture

We gave it a B-

With all the attention that has surrounded investigative reporting since Woodward and Bernstein, one central reality has been lost: If no one will talk to journalists, then journalists will have nothing to write. Without Deep Throat, All the President’s Men could not have existed. And unfortunately for this (vehemently) unauthorized biography of S.I. Newhouse Jr., possibly the greatest of today’s major media barons, its author never found his Deep Throat. The result is a shadow of what could have been, a newspaper profile writ large (the book did, in fact, have its genesis in an article the author wrote for the Long Island tabloid Newsday). Newhouse is best known as the chairman and owner of Conde Nast and Random House, although most of his gigantic fortune is generated by a stable of newspapers and radio stations across the country. These properties give him immense power over scores of people, so it’s not really surprising that many people didn’t want to talk. And, thus, it’s also not really surprising that there’s not much that’s new here — except, maybe, a brief chapter about Newhouse’s close friendship with Red-baiting lawyer Roy Cohn. Those who follow the fortunes of glossy magazines with bated breath might find a kind of voyeuristic pleasure in this book, but those who hunger for the deeper story would do better to wait for another offering. Of course, given Newhouse’s reticence, they might never get a response. B-