Monday, September 26, 2011

Welcome to the Bennett Book Club

I just finished two books on my recent trip to California. As is my habit, both books included behind-the-scenes glimpses of media behemoths. The first was “Morning Miracle,” which is Dave Kindred’s candid look at life at The Washington Post as it adapted – or didn’t adapt – to new media. The second was “They Call Me Baba Booey,” which is Gary Dell’abate’s autobiography, including his role as producer of The Howard Stern Show.

Kindred, a sports reporter, doesn’t apologize for his love affair for newspapers, he relishes in it. Nevertheless, he pulls no punches in “Morning Miracle” when discussing the financial and creative conflicts at the venerable Washington Post. Kindred does one of writing’s toughest jobs … reporting on reporters. He clearly gained the trust of his subjects, allowing him to show divisions within the paper as it faced the pressures of declining revenues and online competition.
Kindred also demonstrates a keen business sense and an outstanding feel for corporate culture. His story could really be about any company facing change. Kindred is there as long-time reporters and editors reluctantly accept one of The Post’s generous severance packages with no idea what they’ll do next. Meanwhile, turmoil is occurring within management’s ranks, too, including the awkward transition of power within a family-owned business.

In “They Call Me Baby Booey,” Dell’abate’s biggest challenges occur at home, as he struggles being the son of a mother with mental illness. Like Stern’s “Private Parts” before it, Dell’abate’s book is a surprisingly tender portrait of his family life. He candidly discusses his brother’s death from AIDS, his mother’s mental health problems and his father’s death.
As for his professional life, Dell’abate’s success is really a tribute to persistence. He takes multiple internships in college and joins the Stern show on a trial basis with a modest salary only after tiring of his job as assistant traffic reporter on the Don Imus’ show.

Dell’abate covers some key Stern show moments, including his ill-advised videotape to an ex girlfriend and wayward first pitch at a Mets’ game. The paperback also includes a new chapter in which Dell’abate chronicles his work on a USO show with the volatile Artie Lange. I would have enjoyed even more Stern back-story, but it was a good read nevertheless.

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