Saturday, December 13, 2008

Annenberg Open Forum on the Tribune Bankruptcy

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Annenberg Open Forum on the Tribune Bankruptcy

Join Geoffrey Cowan, director of USC Annenberg's Center on Communication Leadership, along with journalism school director Geneva Overholser and journalism professor and former Los Angeles Times editor Michael Parks, for an open forum with journalists, faculty, students and community leaders on the impact of the Tribune Company bankruptcy on journalism in Southern California. Additional topics will include the layoffs at NPR West and economic impacts on other news organizations in the region. Other guests will include experts in bankruptcy, labor, and civic engagement. Lunch will be served. RSVP requested. To RSVP, click here. Complimentary parking at USC is available for registered guests.

12 noon. Geoffrey Cowan Forum (Annenberg Room 207), USC Annenberg School, 3502 Watt Way, Los Angeles, CA 90089

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USA Today Design Guru Retires

Richard Curtis announced he will retire this month as Managing Editor, Graphics & Photography at USA Today, which he helped found in 1982. He was also a founder of the Society for News Design (SND). Here he discusses how it all came together:

Richard Curtis talks to Karl Gude about USA Today’s illustrations (Video)
Richard Curtis talks to Karl Gude about USA Today’s infographics (Video)
Richard Curtis interviewed for “On The Media” on color and identity (Audio)
Richard Curtis talks to Mario Garcia about the evolution of color at USA Today (Interview)
Charles Apple on the retirement news (Text + vintage photos)

THEN vs NOW: Pages of early USA Today next to those of today.

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Reports: Detroit Dailies to Curtail Home Delivery


Here comes The New York Times, now reporting: "The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News are planning to stop home delivery most days of the week and print a pared-down version of their papers for newsstands on those days, according to people briefed on the plans. They will be the first major dailies in the country to take such drastic steps."

The Wall Street Journal reported earlier that Gannett hasn't made a final decision. The paper cites a source it did not identify. "But the leading scenario set to be unveiled Tuesday would call for the Free Press and its partner paper, The Detroit News, to end home delivery on all but the most lucrative days -- Thursday, Friday and Sunday," the WSJ says. "On the other days, the publisher would sell single copies of an abbreviated print edition at newsstands and direct readers to the papers' expanded digital editions."

The changes are likely to result in significant job cuts, the story says. "Because the Detroit papers will continue to publish daily electronic versions, the cuts are expected to come mostly, if not entirely, from outside the newsroom, according to sources," the WSJ says.

Watch more NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams videos on AOL Video

WUSA-TV: Union deal paves way to hire 'mojos'

Under an agreement this week with labor unions, Gannett's broadcast flagship will become the first station in a major market to replace crews with one-person "multimedia journalists," who shoot and edit stories single-handedly, The Washington Post says today. The station -- which is running last in the local ratings -- also plans an across-the-board cut in reporters' salaries as it increases their responsibilities. Multimedia journalists will earn 30% to 50% less than what traditional reporters have been earning, with salaries topping out at around $90,000 annually, the Post says, citing sources it doesn't identify at the station. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Tribune Subpoenaed in Blagojevich Shakedown

Tribune Co. was subpoenaed by federal authorities in relation to corruption charges levied on Tuesday against Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The newspaper said that its parent company was asked to provide documents that would relate to allegations that Blagojevich and John Harris, his chief of staff, conspired to get members of the Chicago Tribune editorial board fired in exchange for help in selling the company-owned Wrigley Field. [Click for MORE]

> Tribune's Zell says FBI contacted him in government case
> Blagojevich owes Winston & Strawn $500K: WSJ
> Delaware Judge Authorizes Tribune to Pay $74 Million Owed to Employees Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Everyone Chatters About Tribune...
And Scroll Down for Some Disco

Click on image
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20 Newsday Photographers Fired, Told To "Re-Apply" For Visual Journalist Jobs

Friday evening about 20 photographers at Newsday on Long Island were summoned to a meeting to learn that they had all lost their jobs.

Photographers were called, even those on their days off, and told to come in for a meeting with photography director Jeff Schamberry where they learned that their jobs have been eliminated. They were told that beginning Monday they could "re-apply" for new jobs that have been created in the photography department, positions with the title of "Visual Journalist" or "assistant photo editor."

"We have the 'opportunity' to reapply for either the job of 'Visual Journalist' or as an assistant photography editor," one of the long-time Newsday photographers told News Photographer magazine today. The photographer did not want to be identified by name because the photographer intends to re-apply for one of the new jobs. [Click for MORE]

> Newsday announces 100 job cuts

> L.A. Times Pressroom Ratifies Contract With Tribune

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How Chicago's Newspapers Covered the Bust

Both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times published Extra editions on Tuesday after Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested in the early morning hours by FBI agents for what’s being called a “staggering” level of corruption involving pay-to-play politics.

The Tribune has been tracking the story for days, even weeks and months if you take the sum of the newspaper’s coverage into the accounting. Indeed, the newspaper played a critical role in the criminal complaint against the governor and had even withheld some stories at the behest of the government. [Click for MORE]

Download the Tribune’s Extra front (PDF)

Download the Sun-Times’ Extra front (JPG)

Download the Tribune’s Wednesday front page (PDF)

Download the Sun-Times’ Wednesday front page (PDF)

Download Red Eye’s Wednesday front page (JPG)

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Tribune Employees Won't Face ESOP Losses... Maybe

From LAbiz:

Well, at least Tribune Co. employees won't be losing anything from the company's employee ownership stock plan (we think). The initial contribution was expected to be made in the first quarter, so balances are still at zero. Other retirement benefits appear to be largely unaffected by the Chapter 11 filing, though it's still not known how much is left in the company's pension plans. As of the end of 2007, there were surplus assets of more than $500 million, but obviously a bunch of that was lost in the last year. [Click for MORE]

See also the WSJ.

> CNBC interview with Sam Zell about bankruptcy, ESOP and more
> See the holiday Zell-ebration
> Contact info:
  • Tribune Benefits Service Center, 800-872-2222
  • L.A. Times Payroll, 800-435-7186
  • Tribune Bankruptcy Hotline, 888-287-7568
> Tribune Owes LA Times' 'Cereal Killer' $11 Million Sphere: Related Content

All's Well That Ends Zell

Los Angeles Times owner Sam Zell didn't file for bankruptcy because the newspaper business is being battered by the recession or by online competition. He went into Chapter 11 because of the irresponsible and boneheaded deal he made to take over Tribune Co. in the first place.

Zell's own financial chickens are coming home to roost. Unfortunately, the people who are paying the price for his recklessness are the citizens of Los Angeles and the staff of their premier paper. [Click for MORE]

A Perfect Storm? No, A Failure of Leadership

A bit of unsolicited advice to business executives trying to explain why their company or their industry is suddenly in the soup:

Please spare us the "perfect storm" metaphor.

It's hackneyed, for starters. It doesn't square with the facts. And for people who fancy themselves leaders, it's downright unbecoming.

The reason the perfect storm is such an appealing metaphor for these shipwrecked captains of industry is that it appears to let them off the hook. After all, who can blame you if the ship goes down in one of those freak, once-in-a-century storms that result when three weather systems collide? It's an act of nature that nobody could have predicted -- or so the story goes. [Click for MORE]

The Old Media

In Los Angeles, where I live, there was plenty of snickering this week about Tribune Company's decision to file for bankruptcy protection. Tribune owns the Los Angeles Times, which in recent years has seen its staff cut even more than its circulation and advertising.

The once mighty Times has managed to give almost everyone in Los Angeles a reason to hate it, as it cycled through editors and publishers and one staff reduction after another. You don't have to be a youthful new media type to brag about canceling your subscription to the Times, or how you get your news online, or how what used to take half a Sunday to read now only takes half an hour.

Similar snickers, albeit perhaps quieter ones, followed the news that the cash-strapped New York Times was taking out a mortgage to make ends meet. Who needs these dinosaurs?

The answer is: everyone who cares about politics or government or the arts or culture. They do two things that almost no one else does: report and edit. [Click for MORE]

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Court OKs Some Tribune Employee Payments

Dec. 10, 2008

(AP) — Tribune Co. was authorized on Wednesday to make certain payments to employees, vendors and others as it works through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.

In bankruptcy court in Delaware Wednesday, Judge Kevin Carey said the company, which owns the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and other dailies, could pay $74 million that was owed to employees before Monday's bankruptcy petition was filed. That total includes a cap of $10,950 per person but excludes payments for health care, long-term disability, reimbursable expenses, workers compensation and retiree medical care.

The judge also authorized the debtors to make payments for a variety of other pre-petition obligations, including some $20 million to critical vendors, $18 million in tax, licensing and similar obligations, and $5.5 million to shippers.

James Conlan, an attorney representing the company, said it was forced to seek bankruptcy protection because of dwindling advertising revenues.

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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Media, Blogs Are All Atwitter About Tribune,
Sam Zell and Gov. Blagojevich

From Romenesko:

Editorial writer targeted by Blagojevich wasn't pressured by Tribune bosses
Reflections of a Newsosaur
Chicago Tribune editorial writer John McCormick (left) says no one at Tribune tried to influence the tough stance taken by him and his editorial board colleagues against Gov. Rod Blagojevich. "The feds say somebody wielding power and money tried to muscle Tribune Co. at a difficult time for our industry – and didn't get away with it," McCormick e-mails Alan Mutter. "The Tribune Co. was the object of a huge extortion attempt and didn't budge." || Earlier: Blagojevich singled out editorial writer McCormick.
> Who knew editorial writers were so important?
> Blagojevich bust makes Zell look a bit better today
> Read the editorials that angered Blagojevich

Chicago Tribune says it held some stories at U.S. Attorney's request
Tribune editor Gerould Kern (left) says in a statement: "On occasion, prosecutors asked us to delay publication of stories [about allegations of misconduct involving Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich], asserting that disclosure would jeopardize the criminal investigation. In isolated instances, we granted the requests, but other requests were refused." || Chicago Tribune: U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald thanked the Tribune Tuesday for not reporting some aspects of his probe.
> Sun-Times' Sneed outed as Blago's favorite patsy

Blagojevich was told a Tribune exec would be "going after" the editorial section
Chicago Sun-Times |
In a Nov. 11 intercepted call, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was told by his chief of staff that a "Tribune Financial Advisor" talked to Sam Zell and Zell "got the message [about the editorial board] and is very sensitive to the issue." The chief of staff told the governor that according to Tribune Financial Advisor, there would be "certain corporate reorganizations and budget cuts coming and, reading between the lines, he's going after that section." Blagojevich allegedly responded: "Oh. That's fantastic." || Floyd Norris comments on this.

Littwin: "Every self-respecting newspaper person that I know would enjoy seeing Zell fall, but..."
Rocky Mountain News
"We don't have that luxury anymore," writes Mike Littwin, whose newspaper is on the block. "The problem is, as much as I'd like to gloat [about Sam Zell's problems], I can't find it in me. Apparently it's hard to gloat and work on your resume at the same time. I hate that. But I hate even more that there is so much wrong with today's financial model for newspapers -- this was where Zell was absolutely right -- and that no one seems to have any idea what to do about it."
> Tribune's woes don't stop Abrams from cranking out another "think piece"

Analyst: Zell mortgaged the future of Tribune employees to pursue "a childhood fantasy" DealBook
"The employees were put in a very bad situation," says analyst Jack Newman. He noted long before Monday's bankruptcy filing: "If there is a problem with the company, most of the risk is on the employees, as Sam Zell will not own Tribune shares. The cash will come from the sweat equity of the employees of Tribune."
> LATer: "No love lost between employees here and Zell"
> Bankruptcy looks like just another phase in Zell's strategy
> Filing won't make things much worse -- or improve things
> Ebert: At least Lord Black was a newspaperman with taste
> Tribune's letter to advertisers | Tribune story | LAT story
> Odds stacked against Tribune from the moment Zell bought it

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Bloomberg: Tribune Co. Employees Are Biggest Losers in Bankruptcy; Investment May Be Worthless

Watch more AOL Personal Finance videos on AOL Video

> BusinessWeek: Tribune Bankruptcy Snares Employees
> Can you lose your 401 (k) if your company goes bankrupt?
> Payments to LAT freelancers stopped Sphere: Related Content

Zell More Dewey Than Truman

Zell cartoon
News item: Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, arrested on suspicion of corruption, believed that Sam Zell planned to use "certain corporate reorganizations and budget cuts" to get the Chicago Tribune editorial board, as the governor asked. Sun-Times

Blog item: Lee Abrams tells Tribune papers and TV stations to own the recession: "Instead of reporting to doom and gloom, AGGRESSIVELY OWN it, via ongoing series'. New one's probably going to be a crisis for a looooong time, so NOW is the time to establish ownership." Blogger reaction: "I find this terribly ironic. Who needs a primer on how to survive the recession more than the bankrupt Tribune?" The Daily Pulp

Satire item: "Tribune bankruptcy brings out Zell’s humanitarian side" Not the LA Times

Cartoon take off on Dewey Beats Truman by John Sherffius in the Boulder Camera, courtesy of the artist.

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Governor Held in Shakedown of Tribune, Cubs

Charged With Conspiracy to Sell
Obama's Vacant Senate Seat

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested on Tuesday on charges he brazenly conspired to sell or trade the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama to the highest bidder in what a federal prosecutor called a "corruption crime spree."

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald told a news conference prosecutors make "no allegations" Obama was aware of any alleged scheming.

Blagojevich, right, also was charged with illegally threatening to withhold state assistance to Tribune Co., the owner of the Chicago Tribune, in the sale of Wrigley Field, according to a federal criminal complaint. In return for state assistance, Blagojevich allegedly wanted members of the paper's editorial board who had been critical of him fired. [Click for MORE]

> Governor accused of seeking revenge against Tribune for critical editorials

> Read the complaint against Gov. Blagojevich HERE.

> Blagojevich free on $4,500 bond

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Monday, December 8, 2008

The Worst CEO

From the Washington Post

The Tribune internal Q&A website on today’s bankruptcy filing states that "all ongoing severance payments have been discontinued.” So if you’re one of the large number of reporters, editors and other staffers at the L.A. Times, the Chicago Trib or other papers who got sacked and didn’t get your severance in one lump sum, you have a real problem. A sit-down strike, such as that currently being waged in that Chicago door and window factory, seems a fitting and proper response, though you’ll need help from those of your former colleagues still employed to get back into the buildings. [Click for MORE] Sphere: Related Content

How Networks Reported Tribune Co. Bankruptcy


Watch CBS Videos Online


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Tribune Co. filed for bankruptcy protection from its creditors Monday amid declines in advertising revenue.

The company, which operates TV stations and newspapers including the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, had $7.6 billion of assets and debt of $13 billion, according to a Chapter 11 petition filed today in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del.

The filing excludes the Cubs franchise, according to Sam Zell, Tribune's CEO.

“It has been, to say the least, the perfect storm,” Mr. Zell said in a note to employees just after the filing. “A precipitous decline in revenue and a tough economy have coupled with a credit crisis, making it extremely difficult to support our debt.” [Click for MORE]

Click image for Video
> Why Tribune filed
> Court filing [PDF]
> Tribune statement
> Trib: Tribune Co. files for bankruptcy protection
> LA Times: Tribune Co. files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
> Cubs say Trib's BK foray won’t delay sale — but judge could play umpire
> Zell tells employees: "I remain committed to the company, to you and to our lenders"
> Former Times Mirror execs' golden parachutes disclosed in filing
> Tribune Files for Chapter 11; Who’s on the Hook?
> Remember Mark Willes?
> But what about my stock?
> Zell explains filing
> MLB: Cubs are not part of the filing, company says in statement
> The L.A. Times's Human Wrecking Ball
> Tribune Bankruptcy: Print It
> What Tribune's bankruptcy filing could mean for California
> Zell, Who Led $8 Billion Effort to Take Media Giant Private a Year Ago, Says He Saw No Other Way Out
Deal Journal: Was the Buyout Ever a Good Idea?
> Video: What Went Wrong for Tribune Co.

> Tribune Bankruptcy: Timeline of Company's Troubles Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tribune Prepares for Bankruptcy Filing

Tribune is preparing for a possible bankruptcy-protection filing as soon as this week, according to people familiar with the matter, opening a new front of trouble for the newspaper industry.

As Tribune continues discussions with its lenders to rework its debt load,
the newspaper-and-television concern in recent days has hired Lazard as its financial ad
viser and a legal counsel for a possible trip through bankruptcy court. [Click for MORE]

> LA Times:
Debt-laden Tribune Co. explores possible bankruptcy filing
Tribune prepares bankruptcy
> DealBook: Tribune Hires Advisers to Try Staving Off Bankruptcy
> Reuters:
Tribune prepares for possible bankruptcy filing
> RonKayeLA: Tribune Co. Hires Bankruptcy Advisers
> Kerfuffle: Sam Zell's Tribune Company eyes bankruptcy
> Trib: Tribune Co. hires bankruptcy advisers
> NYT: Tribune Co. Could Be Flirting With Bankruptcy
> AP: Tribune Co. Weighing Bankruptcy Filing, Reports Say
> MarketWatch: Tribune could file for bankruptcy
> GannettBlog: GCI partner Tribune said girding for bankruptcy
> Wash. Post: Debt-Ridden Tribune Co. Considers Bankruptcy Sphere: Related Content