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'The Old Lady of Vine Street'

How a handful of newsmen snatched a big newspaper out of the hip pocket of a famous political family and struggled in secret to secure their prize is a dramatic tale told by Ashland resident and author Richard Mastain in his book, "The Old Lady of Vine Street: The Valiant Fight for the Cincinnati Enquirer."

These days, according to Mastain, the notion of a free press is an increasingly foreign concept, and its ever-diminishing presence in our society has shown itself to be a thief of true democracy. The Old Lady of Vine Street is the story of a small band of reporters who had the courage and audacity to risk everything to fight the powerful Taft family for the right to buy their own newspaper. Newspaper readers who understand the value to this country of a politically free press will be pulling for these determined newsmen and women in their fight to keep their paper free.

It all began when Ohio's premier family, the Tafts, set out to gain the presidency of the United States, the governorship of Ohio, and the leading paper in their state, all in the year 1952. The Tafts owned the Cincinnati Times-Star and had long coveted the more-than-century-old, independent Enquirer, (once a famous "national" paper like the New York Times under the leadership of John Roll McLean, who also owned the Washington Post and the Hope Diamond), the biggest and most influential paper for miles around. The Tafts quietly negotiated a contract to take over the Enquirer for $7,500,000 from the bank administering the paper for the McLean estate.

The story moves from Cincinnati to the Federal District Court in Washington, D.C. Reporters Jim Ratliff and Jack Cronin head the list of major players that also includes the former United States Senator who chaired the Senate investigation of Joseph McCarthy in 1950, two of the wealthiest men in the United States, the most famous family in America, the trust company that sold the Washington Post to Eugene Meyers for $833,000, and over 800 Cincinnati Enquirer employees who risked their homes and life's savings for a chance to own their paper, affectionately known as the "Old Lady of Vine Street."

Mastain's fascination with the story sprung from his 35-year friendship with Jim Ratliff, and his appreciation has continued to grow amid the current environment of increasingly concentrated media control.

The book is available online through barnesandnoble.com.