Tribune towerTribune Co. CEO Sam Zell must be relieved to be back on familiar territory in the real estate business. He’s just put the neo-Gothic Tribune Tower up for sale as well as Los Angeles Times property in historic Times Mirror Square. Technically, Zell says he’s only seeking ways to maximize the value of the properties, but it’s hard to imagine that his options would include making the investment required to redevelop the buildings for the long term. He’s putting them up for sale and potentially buying another year of life for his highly leveraged company. The Wall Street Journal quotes sources estimating the two properties could fetch $385 million.

So the man who said he was going to shake up the Tribune by challenging conventional thinking and breaking the mold is now going back to what he knows best: selling real estate. That kind of vision has got to inspire the troops, especially in the wake of major layoffs at two Tribune papers this week. Edward Padgett has Zell’s memo to employees urging them to keep their eye on the ball and not speculate about what’s up with the property sales.

Assume that more layoffs are on the way shortly. Edward Padgett has the text of a memo from Los Angeles Times Publisher David Hiller to his staff setting the stage for major cost cuts. We can assume there won’t be a lot of joy around the barbeque at LAT employee picnics this weekend.

The Atlantic has a Q&A with Tribune Chief Innovation Officer Lee Abrams in which he doesn’t come off sounding nearly as goofy as his memos make him out to be. Still, his comments are short on the kind of breakthrough insight that the Tribune probably needs right now.

In Other Layoff News…

  • Gannett Co. is looking to cut 150 employees from the Detroit Free Press and the rival Detroit News. That’s about 7.5% of the total workforce, according to Gannett Blog. Management is hoping to make the cuts through buyouts rather than layoffs, but hasn’t ruled out the latter. Detroit is a joint operating agreement town, meaning that the two competing papers belong to the same corporate parent. That’s how bad the advertising climate is. (via Fading to Black)
  • We noted yesterday that when the new round of layoffs at the Hartford Courant are complete, the news staff will have been reduced from 400 to 175, or 55%. That’s not the worst of it, though. Alan Mutter calculates following a small layoff just announced at the San Jose Mercury News, its staff will have been cut 63%. Commenters say that estimate might actually be on the low side.

The Future Takes Shape

Veteran journalists might scoff at the joint effort by MySpace and NBC to recruit citizen journalists to cover the upcoming political conventions, but we think it’s an innovative idea. Someone with a lot of talent but without a lot of connections is going to have the chance to gain a national audience for a few days this summer based solely on his or her creativity and hard work. And what the heck is wrong with that?


Add the San Diego Union-Tribune to the growing list of newspapers that are republishing the best content submitted by users in print. The paper has launched a social network for residents of San Diego county. It’s got all the usual Facebook-like stuff, but editors will be monitoring the discussions and publishing good material in the company’s community weeklies.

for information and some of the promise and challenge that presents. The NPR example is great.
Speaking of citizen journalism, the Guardian has been reporting on a conference about the future of journalism. Caitlin Fitzsimmons blogs a panel about how news organizations are tapping into crowds

Miscellany

Online Journalism blog has the first in a series of planned stories about semantic journalism. Nicolas Kayser-Bril kicks things off with a plain-English explanation of the semantic Web. Basically, if machines could do a better job of interpreting information, it would make all our lives a lot easier. And the Death Watch editor could catch another hour or two of sleep.


We have intentionally avoided commenting on the pissing match between the Associated Press and a group of self-righteous bloggers over fair use of AP copy. We tend to side with the bloggers, but we think the AP also has a point. If you’re late to the party or haven’t been following it closely, Editors Weblog has done the legwork for you. This timeline of the dispute is full of links to relevant detail and covers the big issues succinctly.

Alan Mutter has created the Default-O-Matic, a tool that rates the likelihood that various large newspaper companies will default on their debt. Journal Register Co., whose stock is almost literally not worth the paper it’s printed on, leads the funeral procession, while Washington Post Co. is the healthiest overall. Read this post if you want a quick tutorial on what “default” means. It’s more involved than we thought.

And Finally

LA Times Pressman Edward Padgett shares this gem: “A recent study conducted by Harvard University found that the average American walks about 900 miles a year. Another study by the American Medical Association found that Americans drink, on average, 22 gallons of alcohol per year. This means, on average, Americans get about 41 miles to the gallon!” Have a nice weekend everyone.

Comments

comments

This entry was posted on Friday, June 27th, 2008 at 9:51 am and is filed under Business News, Citizen Journalism, Journalism, Layoffs, NewMedia, Newspapers, Solutions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Comments

  1. July 5, 2008 @ 9:08 pm



    Having moved back to Los Angeles in 2005 (after having moved from downtown in early 2002, back to New York), I remain appalled at the devolution of the one west coast paper that should be leading the pack. (It is bad enough that all the dailies here are long since gone.) What the hell is Zell doing?
    I have my own problems with NYT, but it is far better than LAT. (For the record, my favourite papers are The Economist, The New York Observer, WSJ, FT, NY Post—yeah, I know, but stow it, folks—and a handful of nabe papers in L.A. as well as NYC.
    In the meantime, I welcome folk to check out this bit captured on 6th at Hope over the 4th of July weekend: http://www.thebusbench.com/2008/07/la-times-firewo.html

    Posted by BusTard
  2. July 6, 2008 @ 6:57 am



    Thanks for your comment. It’s hard to imagine that the LAT could sustain quality levels with 40% fewer journalists than it had seven years ago.

    Posted by Paul Gillin