Showing posts with label Chicago Tribune. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chicago Tribune. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Taking a bite out of the media landscape

OK, people, we're breaking some news tonight on the ol' blog.

Tribune seems to have moved quite quickly after the recent misfortune of its chief innovation officer, Lee Abrams. New to the post at Tribune Tower in Chicago is Scout the Dog, who did some thing or another for Revolution 21 in Omaha, Neb.

Scout wasted no time chasing his tail, and his paws hit the ground running in the Windy City. And we've obtained -- exclusively -- his first memo sent to all Tribune hands (and paws) this evening:

From: Scout the Dog
Date: 10/13/2010 20:32:37
Tribune Co.

IT Seems to me that we have to be much more relational with our mediaconsimer base, as we endeaver to AFDI in building a new-media paradime.

Why is it that we only target our media products (and they are producks, we seek to exchange media info and coolness for the consumers media dollars) at such a small smattering of our potensul audience? In this we are being elitist, and elitist aint gonna cut it in the new media age when you can learn everything you need to know on in the Twitter scape? This is whacko -- hello?!?!?!? -- people, and if you can't get out of the way of the Future, then it is gonna run you over like The Bad Car when you miss his tyre by just a little bit(e).

I've seen what happens when you get run over by The Bad Car, which is the revolutionary future, and you don't want to be the rodekilled, believe me. Lead the revolutionshary foreces and AFDI re: the Future New Paradime, or get the HELL OUT OF THE WAY!!!


So what Im proposing we actualkly start actually AFDI RIGHT NOW is aiming more content toward our canine readers and viewers. THSI IS AN ENTIRE MASSIVE UNDRSEVRED MARKET HERE!!! AND WE AR LEEVING DOLLARES ON THE TABLE BY NOT REACHING OUT TO FIDO. OR REX.

I know this subjecct intematntely. Somone with the name of Scout should.

I'm seeying a show on WGN AMERica called Who Let the Dogs Out? -- WOOF! -- and it would start with an actual f***ing stampede of dogs running straight at the camera barking and barking, and then we do a quick cut to picturees of bitches in Heat (uh oh . . . I hope I dont get in troubble like Lee Abrams . . . HAHA) and then we have the exercize segment where we put up pictures of cats and we all run and run and run and try to jump through the TV screen to get the.m

That would be an excellent cardio workout -- can we get federal heath-grqant money to partially fund the production of this. AFDI! Lets' get on it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And the we could introduce variety into this daily segment by substituting other prey for the very pedestrian feline scumsuckers. I'm thinking right noiw


about rabbytes and other bad interlopers we find in our yards when Master lets us out!

We can make this happens ASAP if we just AFDI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm also envissionying making our daily news[papers more canine freindlee as part of our antielitist agenda this quarter. We all don't actually read the newspaper but we all can use the newspaper, and printing helpful targets on it for the young paper-trainers. This especially would start targeting our struggling newspaper business toward a much-needed younger demographic -- we have to start growing that demo people!

We can't rely on old humans forever if our properties like the Chicago Tribune are still going to be around in 2020. Dogs! Are! The! Future! AFDI! Make it so!


This is onlyt a very very small part of the innovation that needs to be happening in the Tribune orgianization. We need to be forward thinking, outside the box thinking and antielitist thinking to achieve our goals for future growth and to once again lead the media world as we put our minds toward AFDI!!!!!!!

I will continnue this theme in next week's Wednesday Evening Wondering as we explore the concept --- and I think this will be a real winner -- of Dog Whistle Radio for our FM stations!!!

Now go out and


just AFDI.

Or else, a-holes!

Friends don't let friends E-mail that

Once upon a time, Lee Abrams could program some mean radio.

Unfortunately, radio is finished. And so, it would seem, is Lee Abrams.

Lee's undoing was in trying to operate at a great big media company just like he would at
Z-Rock. In 1976. Which is ironic, because Abrams' whole spiel at Tribune Co., and at XM satellite radio before that, was how everything had changed, it's a revolution out there, and you could either change or suffer the consequences.

Then Abrams, Trib's "chief innovation officer," goes and sends a Z-Rock memo -- circa Cheech and Chong and including links to some Not Safe for Work videos from The Onion -- to the whole company. Including the Chicago Tribune. With predictable results, as reported by the Tribune itself:
Lee Abrams, Tribune Co.’s chief innovation officer, has been placed on indefinite suspension without pay pending review of a company-wide memo he sent to staff Monday that spurred a rash of employee complaints.

Abrams apologized Tuesday “to everyone who was offended” by the e-mail that included a link to a video labeled “Sluts” that included female nudity. The incident followed by less than a week a New York Times front-page story that characterized Tribune Co. management as fostering a sexist “frat house” atmosphere.

“Lee recognizes that the video was in extremely bad taste and that it offended employees,” Tribune Chief Executive Randy Michaels said in the memo announcing the suspension. “But, this is the kind of serious mistake that can’t be tolerated; we intend to address it promptly and forcefully.”

Abrams may still face additional disciplinary action, Michaels said.

“As I said last week, a creative culture must be built on a foundation of respect,” Michaels said, referring to an Oct. 5 note sent to employees ahead of the New York Times piece. “Our culture is not about being offensive or hurtful. We encourage employees to speak up when they see or hear something that they find offensive, as a number of employees did with regard to this particular e-mail. I can assure you, you will be heard.

YOU WANT to know why some videos are called "Not Safe for Work"? It's because they're NOT SAFE FOR WORK. Included under NSFW are videos, no matter how pointedly satirical, that include a woman pouring booze over her bare breasts and an "anchor" saying “stay safe out there, and don’t f*** any of those sluts.”

Longtime Chicago media writer Robert Feder has to be
soooooooo enjoying this:
Tuesday’s antics were sparked by a typically idiotic company-wide memo written the day before by Lee Abrams, chief innovation officer of Tribune Co. (and longtime crony of CEO Randy “Show Me Your Breasts” Michaels). Although it contained links to some videos that any normal person would consider outrageously inappropriate for the workplace — including one in which women identified as “sluts” were seen simulating lewd acts — Abrams’ memo was not much different than dozens of others he’d written since 2008.

But before the day was over, Abrams was forced to apologize publicly for what he called “poor judgment,” and ordered his offensive email deleted from company servers. What made this particular “think piece” from Abrams such a cause célèbre? Three things:

* Chicago Tribune editor Gerry Kern chose to make an issue of it, lodging complaints to the company’s human resources department and to Abrams directly, and then publicly declaring: “I thought it was offensive and I thought it was completely inappropriate to be sent out in a workplace setting to everyone in this company.”

* Tribune media columnist Phil Rosenthal broke the story of the controversial memo and of Kern’s reaction to it, further distancing the newspaper’s editorial department from the corporate suites of Tribune Tower. Embarrassing as it was, it also inoculated the paper from even greater embarrassment if the memo had been leaked elsewhere.

* Most significantly, it came just six days after a scathing, front-page story in The New York Times exposed the “bankrupt culture” of Tribune Co. under the ownership of Sam Zell and the leadership of Michaels and his cadre of radio rowdies, including Abrams. Reporter David Carr revealed in vivid detail what company employees (and, to a great extent, readers of this blog) had known for quite awhile — that the Tower had become a playground for management’s adolescent fantasies and a cesspool of “sexual innuendo, poisonous workplace banter and profane invective.”
JUST A BIT AGO, I said Lee Abrams' undoing was trying to roll like he was at Z-Rock three-and-a-half decades ago. Actually, that was just one part of his undoing, and perhaps not the most significant.

A key part of his undoing was not believing in editing.
Of any sort.

He spent his Tribune tenure spitballing ideas. Normally, this is good. But when every wet wad of random thought you're trying to stick to the wall begins its life cycle as a stream-of-consciousness, typo-riddled E-mail you send to the whole bloody company, you're going to get a reputation for being flaky.

People are going to stop taking you seriously. Not that Trib people ever took Abrams seriously in the first place, being that he came to a company built largely upon journalism from a gig as "chief creative officer" for a satellite-radio company. And before that, from creating radio formats like . . .
Z-Rock, or whatever.

Traditional media is in a pickle these days. Incumbent upon any "chief innovation officer" trying to earn enough trust to actually begin innovating is, above all,
not sounding like you took the pickle jar and turned it into a bong.

Or, as
the Tribune-owned Baltimore Sun's tech reporter and blogger tweeted just after the news of Abrams' suspension broke:
Goodness.. spontaneous applause just broke out in the Sun newsroom on the news that Tribune's chief innovation officer was suspended.
OR . . . as one Tribune refugee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning ex-Los Angeles Times columnist Dan Neil told Forbes today:
“No one could ever figure out what those Monday morning missives meant,” Neil told me today, referring to the “Think Pieces” Abrams regularly issued, the final one of which proved his undoing. “And all I can say is that at least one of them finally had a positive effect.”

“Abrams was supposed to be some sort of morale officer raising the spirits of the troops and rallying them to the cause, but the effects of his Monday morning missives was precisely the opposite,” he continued. “There was nothing more demoralizing than getting one of these badly written, garbled stoner notes and knowing that this guy was at the top of the organization you worked for.”

EXACTLY. Abrams was a dead man "innovating" long before he sent that highly ill-timed paean to inappropriateness and Randy Michaels threw him under the bus . . . which is kind of like Adolf Hitler indefinitely suspending Joseph Goebbels for being a Nazi.

This, of course, brings us to the A-No. 1 Bigtime Reason for the Undoing of Lee Abrams
(and, by the way, this is NSFW):

LEE F***ED UP. He trusted Randy Michaels.

As a result, he became the noise
everyone ignored.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The National Buffoon's Tribune House

Before Tuesday, there was a little bit left of the Tribune Co., after Sam Zell bought it and hired Randy Michaels to turn it into Delta House.

The bankruptcy judges had been trying to make sure of that.

Now, the carcass of a once-respected media empire pretty much has been obliterated by this story in
The New York Times. The Gray Lady did to Michaels' corporate toga party what Dean Wormer wanted to do to the Deltas, but couldn't pull off.

And then, to add insult to nuclear annihilation, the Times informs the Tribune crew that "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life."

YOU WON'T believe it until you read it. And even then, maybe not:

In January 2008, soon after the venerable Tribune Company was sold for $8.2 billion, Randy Michaels, a new top executive, ran into several other senior colleagues at the InterContinental Hotel next to the Tribune Tower in Chicago.

Mr. Michaels, a former radio executive and disc jockey, had been handpicked by Sam Zell, a billionaire who was the new controlling shareholder, to run much of the media company’s vast collection of properties, including The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, WGN America and The Chicago Cubs.

After Mr. Michaels arrived, according to two people at the bar that night, he sat down and said, “watch this,” and offered the waitress $100 to show him her breasts. The group sat dumbfounded.

“Here was this guy, who was responsible for all these people, getting drunk in front of senior people and saying this to a waitress who many of us knew,” said one of the Tribune executives present, who declined to be identified because he had left the company and did not want to be quoted criticizing a former employer. “I have never seen anything like it.”

Mr. Michaels, who otherwise declined to be interviewed, said through a spokesman, “I never made the comment allegedly attributed to me in January 2008 to a waitress at the InterContinental Hotel, and anyone who said I did so is either lying or mistaken.”

It was a preview of what would become a rugged ride under the new ownership. Mr. Zell and Mr. Michaels, who was promoted to chief executive of the Tribune Company in December 2009, arrived with much fanfare, suggesting they were going to breathe innovation and reinvention into the conservative company.

By all accounts, the reinvention did not go well. At a time when the media industry has struggled, the debt-ridden Tribune Company has done even worse. Less than a year after Mr. Zell bought the company, it tipped into bankruptcy, listing $7.6 billion in assets against a debt of $13 billion, making it the largest bankruptcy in the history of the American media industry. More than 4,200 people have lost jobs since the purchase, while resources for the Tribune newspapers and television stations have been slashed.

The new management did transform the work culture, however. Based on interviews with more than 20 employees and former employees of Tribune, Mr. Michaels’s and his executives’ use of sexual innuendo, poisonous workplace banter and profane invective shocked and offended people throughout the company. Tribune Tower, the architectural symbol of the staid company, came to resemble a frat house, complete with poker parties, juke boxes and pervasive sex talk.

The company said Mr. Michaels had the support of the board.

“Randy is a tremendous motivator, very charismatic, but he is very nontraditional,” said Frank Wood, a member of the Tribune board. “He has the kind of approach that motivates many people and offends others, but we think he’s done a great job.”

The company is now frozen in what seems to be an endless effort to emerge from bankruptcy. (The case entered mediation in September after negotiations failed, and a new agreement between two primary lenders was recently announced.) But even as the company foundered, the tight circle of executives, many with longtime ties to Mr. Michaels, received tens of millions of dollars in bonuses.

Behind the collapse of the Tribune deal and the bankruptcy is a classic example of financial hubris. Mr. Zell, a hard-charging real estate mogul with virtually no experience in the newspaper business, decided that a deal financed with heavy borrowing and followed with aggressive cost-cutting could succeed where the longtime Tribune executives he derided as bureaucrats had failed.

And while many media companies tried cost-cutting and new tactics in the last few years, Tribune was particularly aggressive in planning publicity stunts and in mixing advertising with editorial material. Those efforts alienated longtime employees and audiences in the communities its newspapers served.

“They threw out what Tribune had stood for, quality journalism and a real brand integrity, and in just a year, pushed it down into mud and bankruptcy,” said Ken Doctor, a newspaper analyst with Outsell Inc., a consulting firm. “And it’s been wallowing there for the last 20 months with no end in sight.”

Mr. Zell has acknowledged that the deal has not turned out how he hoped. But noting a recent upturn in results, he said through a spokesman, “Tribune has made significant strides in becoming a current, competitive and sustainable media company. The measure of management’s performance is reflected in the increased profitability of Tribune’s media properties.”

deals rarely turn out like you hoped when you pay too much for properties with too much borrowed money, then put arrested-development corporate scumbags in charge to create a toxic work environment in the name of "creativity," while systematically jettisoning human capital and laying waste to whatever value Tribune's media products once had.

Hang on, though. It gets better, which means worse.
Mr. Michaels, who was initially in charge of Tribune’s broadcasting and interactive businesses as well as six newspapers, was a former shock jock who made a name for himself — and a lot of money for Mr. Zell — by scooping up radio stations while at the Zell-controlled Jacor Communications. Jacor was later sold to Clear Channel Communications for $4.4 billion.

In turn, Mr. Michaels remade Tribune’s management, installing in major positions more than 20 former associates from the radio business — people he knew from his time running Jacor and Clear Channel — a practice that came to be known as “friends and family” at the company.

One of their first priorities was rewriting the employee handbook.

“Working at Tribune means accepting that you might hear a word that you, personally, might not use,” the new handbook warned. “You might experience an attitude you don’t share. You might hear a joke that you don’t consider funny. That is because a loose, fun, nonlinear atmosphere is important to the creative process.” It then added, “This should be understood, should not be a surprise and not considered harassment.”

The new permissive ethos was quickly on display. When Kim Johnson, who had worked with Mr. Michaels as an executive at Clear Channel, was hired as senior vice president of local sales on June 16, 2008, the news release said she was “a former waitress at Knockers — the Place for Hot Racks and Cold Brews,” a jocular reference to a fictitious restaurant chain.

A woman who used to work at the Tribune Company in a senior position, but did not want to be identified because she now worked at another media company in Chicago, said that Mr. Michaels and Marc Chase, who was brought in to run Tribune Interactive, had a loud conversation on an open balcony above a work area about the sexual suitability of various employees.

“The conversation just wafted down on all of the people who were sitting there.” She also said that she was present at a meeting where a female executive jovially offered to bring in her assistant to perform a sexual act on someone in a meeting who seemed to be in a bad mood.

Staff members who had concerns did not have many options, given the state of the media business in Chicago, the woman said. “Not many people could afford to leave. The people who could leave, did. But it was not in my best interest to have my name connected to an E.E.O.C. suit,” she said, referring to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (Indeed, there are no current E.E.O.C. complaints against the Tribune Company.)

There have been complaints about Mr. Michaels in the past, however. In 1995, Mr. Michaels and Jacor settled a suit brought by Liz Richards, a former talk show host in Florida who filed an E.E.O.C. complaint and a civil suit, saying she had been bitten on the neck by Mr. Michaels and that he walked through the office wearing a sexual device around his neck.

“They were like 14-year-old boys — no boundaries at all — but with money and power,” Ms. Richards said in an interview.

with Michaels' reputation in radio. And anyone who thought that one of the middle-aged juveniles who helped destroy radio broadcasting would do the opposite in a field they knew even less about . . . well, we need a hit of whatever he's smoking.

Especially after reading that
New York Times piece.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Let them eat newsprint!

I can't decide whether this moment in journalism -- this moment in the history of capitalism -- is a Billie Holiday cum Blood, Sweat and Tears moment or, perhaps, a Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young moment instead.

Is the continuing evacuation of journalists out of American journalism just another instance of "them that's got shall get, them that's not shall lose -- so the Bible said, and it still is news"? Or is this more like an economic Kent State, corporations figuratively gunning down folks' livelihoods because somebody's got to pay for the sins of the "best and brightest" . . . except, of course, for the best and brightest?

Richard Nixon had the pointless Vietnam War; Sam Zell has a mountain of debt leveraged against the revenues of the Chicago Tribune and the whole damn Tribune Co.

MAYBE . . . just maybe, it's both. Cue Neil Young (loosely rendered):
Tin bankers and Sam Zell's comin'.
We're finally on our own.
This spring we all hear the drummin'.
Fifty fired in Chicago.

Gotta get down to it.
Bankers are mowing us down.
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew them and
Found their lives all unwound?
How can you run when you know?
WEDNESDAY, Zell's Tribune purged 53 staffers from its newsroom -- probably meaning nearly that many will never work in journalism again. Fifty-three of the people who on Tuesday brought the news to Chicago readers, on Wednesday wondered how they'd pay the bills . . . put Junior through school . . . put food on the table.

Fiddle-dee-dee. Layoff, layoff, layoff; this layoff talk's spoiling all the fun at every party this spring. I get so bored I could scream.

Fortunately for them -- so as to avert any party screaming -- a whole bunch of Chicago Tribune muckedy-mucks will have millions and millions in bonus money to tamp down their high-society anxiety. It's all in Crain's Chicago Business:
On the same day the Chicago Tribune cut 53 jobs from its newsroom, its parent Tribune Co. asked a Bankruptcy Court to approve of $13.3 million in bonuses and other incentive payments to 703 employees.

The payments are “vitally necessary” to reward employees for a difficult year and motivate them during the current year, according to Tribune's motion filed with the court Wednesday. The top ten executives in the company are not eligible for the payments.

On Wednesday the Chicago Tribune’s difficult year continued, as it cut staff in its latest bid to reduce expenses amid continuing advertising declines, the newspaper’s editor said in a memo.

"With today’s actions, we are making the leap to a newsroom structure that we believe is sustainable barring further significant declines in advertising revenue," Editor Gerould Kern said in a memo to staffers obtained by Crain's. "While some are leaving now, others will join the newsroom over time as we invest in new skills necessary to grow in the future."

Wednesday’s layoffs leave the Trib with 430 workers in its newsroom, Mr. Kern said.
SOMEBODY DONE GONE and took the word "unseemly" right out of Webster's dictionary, didn't they?

For the love of God, the fictional O'Hara family -- Scarlett included -- treated their slaves better than Corporate America treats the country's workers. It's not just a journalism thang -- wait till The Man gets through with the auto workers.

And, soon enough, you.

WE LIVE in an era when not only is the American worker thoroughly expendable -- at least so the suits think -- but also when the "brights" obviously feel some compulsion to rub the faces of the "right-sized" into the detritus of their former livelihoods.

And as the rendering of the middle and working classes into rich men's portfolios continues apace, we're going to really find out what pieces of meat we are.

For, you see, the Culture of Death isn't just for fetuses. Our society is aborting the already-born with reckless abandon . . . in all kinds of ways.

¡Viva la Revolución!