“Never on Monday – or Tuesday, or Wednesday: how newspapers redefine ‘daily'”: With a look back to an interview with Sam Zell in November, Dr Mario R Garcia does a round-up of the shifting definition of ‘daily’ for newspapers in the US.
More on this tomorrow, but just to link today’s (Monday) news that the Tribune Co. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, as reported here by the group’s own newspaper the LA Times, as well as numerous other news sources. The group also owns KTLA Channel 5, the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun as well as nine other newspapers and 22 other television and radio stations across the country.
The group’s chief executive Sam Zell said in a statement (via CNNmoney.co.uk):
“Factors beyond our control have created a perfect storm – a precipitous decline in revenue and a tough economy coupled with a credit crisis that makes it extremely difficult to support our debt.”
“We believe that this restructuring will bring the level of our debt in line with current economic realities, and will take pressure off our operations.”
The groups says it is able to sustain operations while it restructures. Here, Editor & Publisher looks at concerns inside the newsroom.
Excerpts from Sam Zell’s memo can be read here.
A body of current and former LA Times journalists have launched legal action against the paper’s owner Sam Zell.
The group have accused Zell of ‘recklessness in the takeover and management’ of the Times’ parent company Tribune, which Zell bought in December last year.
Journalists facing the axe at Tribune’s titles are using the Tell Zell blog to protest against the publisher’s owner Sam Zell.
Last week LA Times, one of the biggest employers of journalists in the US, announced that it would be dispensing with the services of 150 of them as part of a total 250 job losses at the paper.
Yesterday afternoon it emerged that two more journalists would likely be leaving the LA Times, but not as a direct result of the editorial cuts.
According to LA Observed, Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporters Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber will be leaving the paper later in the summer to join the not-for-profit investigative start up ProPublica.
“It’s another big morale blow in the newsroom, which used to be a place where journalists aspired to reach and stay to do their best work. With new deep cutbacks coming and [LA Times owner] Sam Zell’s outbursts making many of the best journalists feel the Times’ commitment to serious news is precarious, it’s no longer surprising to see stars like Ornstein and Weber flee,” wrote Kevin Roderick.
Last week’s editorial staff cuts, which amounts to roughly 17 per cent of the employees, will be spread between the print newsroom and The Times’ web operations.
Those cuts led to this fascinating quote from Times editor Russ Stanton:
“You all know the paradox we find ourselves in,” he wrote said in a memo to the staff. “Thanks to the Internet, we have more readers for our great journalism than at any time in our history. But also thanks to the Internet, our advertisers have more choices, and we have less money.”
One hundred and fifty losses job losses against two hires doesn’t really make a great case for the internet as a growth medium for the employment of journalists, but nonetheless the growth of ProPublica and its journalistic modus operandi online marks a neat stab at Stanton’s paradox.
The ProPublica site will be fully operational later this year and plans to have almost 30 investigative reporters working on in-depth stories (it helps that self-made billionaire Herb Sandler has set up the site with a donation of $10m a year from his foundation and that it’s under the watchful eye of former WSJ editor Paul Steiger).
ProPublica will conduct investigations, largely online, in areas of significant public interest. It will also use TV documentaries to reveal on that large canvas issues that will be followed up extensively online.
It’s first major project, an investigation into US-backed Arabic language TV network Alhurra, ran on 60 Minutes two weeks ago.
Zell say that newspapers have to slim down and become more economically viable. Newspaper’s are about money, not news, that’s fairly self-evident. Little wonder then that Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber decided to walk and pursue their investigations elsewhere.
What awaits them at ProPublica?
A philanthropic backer claiming no editorial interference. No desire for profits. No ads on the site. Where almost all resources will be poured into journalism (what no free CD give away?).
The journalistic equivalent to Willy Wonka’s ‘golden ticket’, it seems.
Those guys at Tribune know how to have a laugh don’t they? Take this ‘hilarious’ press release I received today about the US media group’s latest appointment:
Surely You Can’t Be Serious? Marc Chase – President Of Tribune Interactive!
Randy Michaels’ run of acquiring radio-management stars
came to a screeching halt today with Chase’s appointment
CHICAGO, April 7, 2008 — Another freaking Clear Channel
Communications executive on the payroll and this one’s been
named President of Tribune Interactive.
Tribune Broadcasting’s Randy Michaels’ past finally caught
up with him when Marc Chase obviously blackmailed his way
into a position he is not remotely qualified to hold.
Insiders are irate. Chase is a fraud. A source inside
Tribune HR, who wished to remain anonymous, pointed out that
Marc Chase’s resume (below) was obviously fabricated. First
of all, his name isn’t even Marc Chase–it’s Mark Thompson.
The whole thing is a sham.
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington DC 20500 202-456-1111
Vocabulary Advisorist for George W. Bush
President of the United States of America
Washington DC, 2004-present
President of Buying Crap
San Jose, California 2003-2004
Executive Vice President of Finding Crap Anywhere
Mountain View, California 2001-2002
Senior Executive Vice President of Technology and Stuff
Seattle, Washington, 2000-2001
CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX Television
Vice President of Watching TV A Lot
Los Angeles, California 1999-2000
Dean of School of Internetology
Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1998
Nearly Graduated with Honers
School of Alabama in Atlanta Georgia 1985
400 Hours (reduced from 600)
Judge gave time off for good behavior
Chase was quoted as saying, “Timing and infrared photography
are everything. I couldn’t be happier! I know Randy is
relieved to finally have me on Sam’s payroll.”
Tribune has undergone major changes in the past year, with
billionaire Sam Zell acquiring the company last April in a
complex deal that left it with $13 billion in debt. Since
then, Zell has brought in new executives to fill key roles.
This one takes the cake.
Last December, Zell hired Michaels — who helped Zell to
build Clear Channel into a radio behemoth that he could then
sell — to oversee Tribune’s broadcast and Internet
divisions. It is obvious Michaels has lost his mind with
–By Hugh Jass – A Reputable Media Source
© 2008, Bogus Information, a division of Dewey, Cheatum, and
Howe. All Rights Reserved.
While you’re sewing you sides back together (and trying to make sense of the whole thing), you have to ask why? As Gawker points out Marc Chase has been hired – that’s about all you can determine from the message – but is it appropriate to send out a spoof release as the Tribune company faces mass redundancies?