Mo’guls, Mo’ Problems
The newspaper formerly known as the San Diego Union-Tribune just debuted phase two of its reinvention as a multi-media company: UT-TV. The U-T‘s newsroom will soon have a fully functional television station smack in the middle of it. So… how about that promo video?
Interestingly, sports radio host Scott Kaplan looks like he’ll be playing a major role at UT-TV. Which is a bit surprising since he publicly blamed the Union-Tribune for getting him fired from his last job at XX 1090 Sports.
There has arguably never been a more dramatic juxtaposition at a Hollywood movie press junket and premiere event than the one that recently took place in London for the unveiling of the 3D version of Titanic. There was director James Cameron, explaining to reporters that he almost didn’t make it because of his record-setting dive to the Mariana Trench a few days earlier.
In terms of coverage of Cameron the explorer, the best outlet remains that of his scientific partner, National Geographic. In the magazine’s latest Web exclusive, the king of the underworld talked about his desire to return to the seven-mile bottom as well as his very measured view of the inevitable excursion glitches:
“The thing that I know from my experience of diving … is that unless you’re running a tourist sub that does the same dive every day, day in day out, you’re going to have technical problems.”
When Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times starting asking questions about Goldman Sachs’s partial ownership of Village Voice Media, the investment firm got nervous. Village Voice Media, parent company of the LA Weekly, also owns Backpage.com, a site that’s taken some heat for running “escort ads” selling trafficked women and children. By Friday, Goldman Sachs had sold its 16% stake in the company.
And that, as Yosemite Sam would say, makes them lily-livered cowards.
If Goldman Sachs gave a damn about victims of sex trafficking, they would have used their 16% influence to shut down the adult services ads. Instead, the firm just attempted to cover their own ass by selling as fast as they could.
As Kristof himself noted, Goldman Sachs owned a significant chunk of the company for over six years, and served on the board for four. He writes, “There’s no indication that Goldman or anyone else ever used its ownership to urge Village Voice Media to drop escort ads or verify ages. Elizabeth L. McDougall, chief counsel for Village Voice Media, told me Friday that she was “unaware of any dissent” from owners.”
And why would owners object? The adult services section of Backpage.com takes in approximately $25 million a year. Goldman Sachs pocketed their blood money, then ducked out to avoid bad press.
On March 8, Edmonton Journal reporter Cam Cole took a shot at former Oilers NHL hockey team owner Peter Pocklington in an article about the current movements of NFL star quarterback Peyton Manning. The third paragraph reads:
Pocklington, basically a small-timer trying to play with the big boys of NHL ownership, couldn’t afford to do that, couldn’t possibly make an exception even for the game’s most exceptional player without having his entire financial house of cards collapse.
Today, in the same newspaper, Pocklington responds, from Palm Desert, California. In his Op Ed, the former Oilers owner says his other businesses were not failing at the time he chose to trade Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings. Rather, he insists it was only the operations of the NHL team that were challenged. Writes Pocklington:
Someone reading this might wonder why I bother to respond. Truthfully, I don’t have a problem with the fact sportswriters disapprove of me trading Wayne Gretzky 24 years ago, although I might suggest that’s a long time to hold a grudge.
You knew that couldn’t last.
Bloomberg reports that Zell officially wants a piece of all monies won by unsecured creditors in the Tribune bankruptcy case–including those of former employees.
The demand, made through the Zell-controlled company EGI TRB LLC, came in one of the disputes being heard in bankruptcy court over how to split any money creditors win in dozens of lawsuits over claims the buyout was a fraud on creditors. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey began a two-day hearing today about the disputes.
“In the ultimate display of chutzpah, Zell and EGI are asserting that their tainted claims should now be treated on par with innocent creditors who had nothing to do with the LBO,” a group of about 185 retired managers and other highly paid former employees said in court papers.
We’d like to commend the group of former employees for their “ultimate display” of restraint in forgoing the use of any four-letter words in describing Zell.
Since taking over the San Diego Union-Tribune at the end of last year (and re-naming it U-T San Diego) Manchester has been rumored to be eying the North County Times as well. But UT editor Jeff Light is an OC Register alumn, and has brought plenty of folks with him from the OC to San Diego. The Register has been rumored to be on the block since its parent company Freedom Communications went bankrupt in 2009. Freedom recently settled a major lawsuit with several of its unsecured Register creditors stemming from that bankruptcy, which certainly must make the paper a whole lot more appealing to potential buyers.
More to come on this story, we’re sure.
*Voice of San Diego confirms that Manchester is definitely interested in the Register. “There’s no deal right now,” Manchester told VoSD. “Check with me in 30 days and there might be something.”
Even for an article in the real estate section of the New York Times, the subject of Sam Zell‘s spectacular mismanagement of the Tribune Co. is unavoidable. And the diminutive mogul is happy to flap his gums on the topic, denying any responsibility for the largest media bankruptcy in American history:
Zell does not blame the heavy debt burden for Tribune’s failure, but rather the precipitous dive in newspaper advertising that occurred just after he bought the media company and the staff’s intransigence. “I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to convince the people that it was in their own interest to modify the way in which the business ran, so as to be profitable,” he said.
That’s the same decline in advertising that affected every single newspaper in this country, the vast majority of which didn’t go bankrupt. That was the problem? That and the uppity staff? Yeesh.
U-T San Diego has decided to seek outside help in monitoring its comment sections. It will outsource responsibility for its comment boards to a moderation service.
San Diego CityBeat got a hold of the memo:
Comment moderation: We have hired an outside company to monitor our comments 24/7, hiding comments that do not meet our standards. Reporters will be getting emails from the moderators at ICUC Moderation services alerting them to comments that may warrant their attention. You don’t have to respond to these moderators, but thanking them or letting them know of any action you take will help them get used to how we operate and welcome them to the family. This is a major step we expect will further refine the tone and content of the comments without hindering their flow. This does not replace the need for reporters to read the comments and, when called for, to interact with the commenters on their stories.
As CityBeat notes, the U-T isn’t the first media outlet to outsource its comment moderation. The San Francisco Chronicle and NPR also use ICUC. The U-T has had some high profile disasters in its comment section since Douglas Manchester took control of the paper late last year. So farming out the moderating duties is probably a good idea until it gets the rest of the paper in order.