By paulgillin | June 30, 2008 - 8:16 am - Posted in Facebook

Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell was interviewed on CNBC’s Squawk Box show last Friday morning and took the opportunity to reinforce his position as a change agent. “Because newspapers have historically been monopolies, I think they’ve been insulated from reality,” he said. Actually, newspapers have historically been competitive, but no so much for the last 30 years or so. Zell also made it clear that business sucks far more than he expected. “Are you talking about the people who buy ads? I’m trying to find one of them,” he says in only partial jest. Romenesko has a transcript.

The Washington Post quotes bond analysts saying Tribune Co. will be able to meet its debt obligations through mid-2009, but that’s when things might get ugly. A big bond payment is due at about that time and no asset in the portfolio is going to raise enough money to make that nut. The story also has a rundown of recent cost-cutting efforts at Tribune Co., all of which have been documented here.

Add Tell Zell to your RSS reader because this blog is not only snarky but fun. It’s got a new tool called the Hackinator that enables users to compose letters of resignation to various Tribune Co. managers using an assortment of menu-driven insults. Tell Zell is also publicizing an Orlando Sentinel staffer’s call for a company-wide sickout by Tribune Co. employees on July 9. As of Monday morning, sentiment was running 70% in favor. But will they actually follow through?


From across the pond, the Guardian sums up the wretched state of the US newspaper industry. While there’s no news here you haven’t read in NDW before, the quotes from screenwriter David Simon are interesting. He compares newspapers to the Napster-era music industry and says what’s needed is an iTunes for newspapers. The piece also hints at a theory we floated last week: Rupert Murdoch may be the big winner in all this.

Mark Potts was busy on Friday, posting a 10-point manifesto for fixing major metro dailies. While not everything in the blog entry is new (we know it’s all about going local), advice like “zero-base the news operation” and “lose the editorial page” are compelling. The latter idea really stuck with us. The editorial page is a vestige of bygone days when institutional voices ruled the land. Today, it’s all about community, yet all major metro dailies march on with this outdated and increasingly irrelevant daily opinion. Potts closes with the sad observation that the greatest innovation in newspapers of the last decade has been Sudoku. For which we are profoundly grateful.

A day earlier, Potts rounded up the week’s carnage and figured about 900 jobs were eliminated during the week on top of the 1,400 cut by McClatchy the week before. He quotes Simon Dumenco writing in Advertising Age that reading Romenesko these days is like “reading the obits.”

Layoff Log

The Bay Area News Group, which operates eight regional papers in the San Francisco area, will lay off 13% of its workforce. The actual number wasn’t announced. The company will also lay off 29 out of 226 employees in a newsroom that voted for unionize early this month. A 17% decline in first-half business was cited. One of its member papers, the Palo Alto Daily News, will also eliminate its Monday edition.

The Albany Newspaper Guild says 14 people took buyouts, but it doesn’t say where. We’re not aware of any cost-cutting going on at the Times-Union, which actually recently announced expanion plans. Let us know if you can shed light on this announcement.

And Finally…

In Romania, they apparently like things simple. So the Romanian Senate just passed a law requiring the media to provide a 50-50 balance of positive and negative news. Fortunately, the government council designated to arbitrate the rule quickly denounced the law as ludicrous.



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Comments Off on A Heaping Helping of Zell


  1. June 30, 2008 @ 12:45 pm

    I give the union people credit for effort, but unionizing newspapers is not the answer to problems. In fact, they might just make them worse. Right now, newspaper people are just trying to hold onto their job long enough to find another one.

    Posted by Newspaper Fan
  2. June 30, 2008 @ 4:21 pm

    Unions have been largely irrelevant in this country for 30 years. Fighting with management when management is fighting for its life doesn’t serve any purpose. Just look at the steel industry for an example of how successful that strategy is.

    Posted by paulgillin