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Book review and commentary about former boss: “Basic Black” by Cathie Black, media executive

July 2, 2011

Steve Fawthrop

“I actually cheated and read part of this book in a bookstore when it came out in ’07, then spotted the paperback book at B&N recently and read the rest. Sorry Cathie, but no $ out of me on this one.What caught my attention is that Black is my former boss from USA Today.While the book was written as more of a career guide, especially for younger professional women, it incorporated professional and life lessons that often cited her experiences at “The Nation’s Newspaper.”

Preceding her time at USAT Cathie was a trailblazer of sorts for women in media and publishing. It is hard to believe, given the number of female sales reps and executives in publishing. other areas of media and on the agency side, but it was a very male world in media when Cathie entered the field.

Along with getting some of the scoop on her challenges in the earlier years of USA Today, before I joined the company, I also enjoyed reading about the life lessons shared after she left in 1991. For the most part I felt Cathie was one of those people who “had it together” but she is open in the book about how some mistakes were made and how her viewpoints evolved due to the changing work environment and, of course, the shift in publishing due to the effect of the Internet after she joined Hearst’s magazine group in 1995.
She headed up a multi-billion dollar operation and concluded an outstanding career in sales and media last year. She then took a surprising position as head of the New York public school district. While that short tenure-just three months-exploded it cannot take away from her successful career.I was fortunate to spend time with Cathie and many other quality people at USA Today. It helped establish a high standard for how I would deal with clients throughout my career. While we were aggressively out to make the sale-USA Today was not profitable until 1994 so our need was obvious-we still had a very clear client focus to sell value.  The was great value I learned from Cathie and the other management leaders at USA Today.
If you know a young woman starting her professional career, especially in media and advertising, buy this for her as a gift. “
Additional information:
Forbes website interview with Cathie about feedback on the book. 2 minutes: http://video.forbes.com/fvn/bizviz/bizviz_black010609_short
2008 interview with Cathie Black at conference discussing media trends. 36 minutes: http://blip.tv/paidcontent/econwomen-tina-brown-interviews-cathie-black-1420624
Black honored for her role in helping establish USA Today in the market, Short article: http://www.volanteonline.com/mobile/news/black-vega-accept-neuharth-award-share-usa-today-memories-1.2351080
Black comments the day after her resignation has head of the New York public schools: http://postcards.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2011/04/08/cathie-black-vows-to-come-back-im-a-warrior/
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Steve Fawthrop
714-876-7062, cell
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