Times' Tribune Takedown


Wow, that’s quite a takedown of Tribune on page one of the NY Times today. Media reporter David Carr looks at the loose culture at Tribune since Zell and the old Jacor radio guys took over the company, and finds a culture that’s as bankrupt as the company’s finances.

How’s this for a lede:

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.”

Michaels, for his part, said anyone who claims he did such a thing in Jan. 2008 at that hotel is”lying or mistaken.”

It’s quite a read. Carr focuses more on the newspapers than TV stations, but notes that the 23 Tribune stations are actually doing quite well.

Maybe the frat-house atmo works better for TV than newspapers.

LAObserved says Michaels sent out an internal Trib memo to try to discredit the Times reporter and brush off the allegations.

The memo allegedly reads:

It is our intention to have creative environment. A creative culture must be built on a foundation of respect for each other. Our goal is an environment where people are free to speak up, free to challenge authority, and free to fail on the way to success. Our culture is NOT about being offensive or hurtful.