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Newspapers Whose Survival It’s Hard to Care About

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From an excellent David Carr article about the decline of the Tribune Company, a representative anecdote:

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.

Classy! But, obviously, nobody could have predicted (TM)…

During and immediately after Mr. Michaels’s tenure at Clear Channel, three lawsuits were filed contending sexual harassment at the company. One plaintiff, Karen Childress, a senior executive, said she was fired after complaining about receiving lewd e-mail from senior company executives. In her complaint, Ms. Childress also stated that women who slept with male executives at the firm were promoted. The cases were settled out of court. Clear Channel declined to comment on the lawsuits.

Well, OK, but the company can hardly be blamed for the actions of one rogue executive…

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.”

Well, OK, but encouraging sexist assholes standing up to the P.C. police with a, ah,
“nonlinear” work environment is surely necessary to hiring the very highest quality managers:

Mr. Abrams, who describes himself as an “economic dunce,” was made Tribune’s chief innovation officer in March 2008. In his new role, he peppered the staff with stream-of-consciousness memos, some of which went on for 5,000 typo-ridden, idiosyncratic words that left some amused and many bewildered.

“Rock n Roll musically is behind us. NEWS & INFORMATION IS THE NEW ROCK N ROLL,” he wrote in one memo, sent in 2008. He expressed surprise that The Los Angeles Times reporters covering the war in Iraq were actually there.

It’s hard to see why this company is losing money hand over fist while putting out a consistently worse product! The Donalde may want to put his c.v. together, because it looks like he’s got a great shot at an executive career if the company can stay in business long enough…

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