A Gannett Blog reader has just pointed me to a sly comment someone left on Al Neuharth's USA Today column this morning about journalist Tom Brokaw's new book. Here's that comment -- followed by the back story: "If only Tom had a hundred editors to buy a hundreds [sic] copies of his book, like you did with your SOB book."
That's a reference to Confessions of an S.O.B. -- Neuharth's 1989 autobiography. Long-time Gannettoids will recall that the colorful former Gannett CEO (above) got in trouble for using the non-profit Freedom Forum to jack up the book's sales.
Of course, that's not the only chapter in Neuharth's history with book publishing. He launched the Freedom Forum in 1991 after selling hundreds of millions of dollars in Gannett stock held by its predecessor, the old Gannett Foundation. The new group committed millions to honoring Neuharth, Columbia Journalism Review wrote in its January-February 2002 issue. The article details the Freedom Forum's excessive spending -- and the tale of an out-of-wedlock child:
"It hired Michael Gartner, a former NBC News president and Freedom Forum fellow, as well as a Freedom Forum First Amendment Center trustee, to write an authorized Neuharth biography, only to cancel the project last year when Gartner assembled some unpalatable material, including the story of a woman who claimed she was Neuharth's long-ago and ignored out-of-wedlock daughter. The New York Times criticized the decision to kill the book in an editorial titled 'Free Press, Everywhere but Here.''"
Neuharth's official biography mentions eight children. Were stories about a ninth child one confession he wasn't ready to make?
[Image: Neuharth's 1989 biography, Confessions of an S.O.B., Amazon]