To Heaven, Like Hell

In today's New York Times, there's a profile of the guy who helped kill The Dallas Times Herald: Dean Singleton, or, as the Times calls him, "a bantam figure with flinty blue eyes." (That was the title of my first album, matter of fact.) The story, which is essentially a watered-down version of a far superior Columbia Journalism Review profile from three years ago, chronicles his aspirations to be a media mogul like Pulitzer and Hearst, even with "low wage and mediocre" papers under his banner. And how did he get to be so powerful? Says here:

"Mr. Singleton began buying newspapers in the 1970's, and his first major effort, reviving The Fort Worth Press, backfired. He closed it three months later. As he bought more papers, he stripped them down, laid people off and used the cash to buy more papers, almost all of them failing dailies that no one else wanted. Sometimes he saved them and sometimes, notably in Houston and Dallas, he let them die."

And there's the theory, from an editor of a media industry newsletter, that Singleton's trying to play nice guy these days to make up for what he did to the Herald, among other papers he stripped for parts after buying it from Times Mirror for $120 million in 1987. (Times Mirror, to be fair, sold Singleton a money-losing business it had already started to suffocate to death; Singleton always blamed the Herald's bad fortunes on its being "a blue-collar paper in a white-collar market," but still managed to make $15 million from owning it a short 18 months.) Singleton's "paving his way to heaven,'' says industry observer David M. Cole, by salving "the wounds of Dallas and Houston, and the cuts he made in newspapers that upon reflection maybe he shouldn't have made.'' Singleton, to his credit, dismisses the theory: The man did what he did, and he'd do it again. Which is why, to some extent, Dallas is a one-daily town, and Dean Singleton's a very rich man. --Robert Wilonsky


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