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Zell Watch

Tribune Co. Set to Receive Critical FCC Waivers

Interesting tidbit from LA Times DC reporter Jim Puzzanghera.

Barring an unforeseen and very unlikely objection from one or more of the Federal Communications Commission’s five commissioners, some very critical regional media market waivers will be granted by the FCC on Friday. The waivers reaffirm the Tribune Company’s right to own radio, TV and newspaper outlets in the same market:

The FCC has told commissioners it plans to grant Tribune’s new owners a permanent waiver for the company’s longtime ownership of the Chicago Tribune newspaper and WGN radio and television stations in the Chicago market.

The staff also plans to give one-year waivers for the Tribune’s ownership of the Los Angeles Times and KTLA-TV Channel 5 and for similar arrangements in New York, southern Florida and Hartford, Conn.

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Tim Rutten ‘Surprised But Not Shocked’ by LA Times Layoff

The official clock-punch time for those affected by the latest round of LA Times layoffs is midnight, tonight. As first reported by FishbowlLA, one of those who got thrown under the Sam Zell bus this time around was media columnist Tim Rutten (pictured).

Rutten spoke with KPCC-FM 89.3 morning host Madeleine Brand about the end of a very long downtown LA run. There have already been a number of eloquent farewell emails from similarly affected colleagues. Rutten tells Brand he knew he was on shaky ground:

“Whatever the merits of your work, to be older and to be collecting a relatively large paycheck was to have a kind of target on your back,” he says, admitting that he was surprised but not shocked by the news…

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LA Times Editor Responds to the NYT’s Ill-Timed Sideswipe

Like most of the LA media world, ourselves included, LA Times editor Geoffrey Mohan was not impressed with the New York Timesextremely belated piece on the struggles at the LA Times under Tribune Company ownership. So he decided to let the NYT know about his displeasure, penning a letter to the paper that he CC’d to Romenesko and the Columbia Journalism Review.

A taste:

I was shocked today (1/24/11) to find there are people who gripe about the good old days in Los Angeles, and I thank the New York Times for visiting our city to tell us they were here. Equally, I thank you for couching your astonishing discovery with dismissals of the late accomplishments of the bemoaned Los Angeles Times.

“Never mind,” Jeremy Peters instructs, that “The [Los Angeles] Times is considered a front-runner to win a Pulitzer Prize this year for its coverage of city officials in Bell who gave themselves enormous salaries, a story that tapped into a growing national outrage over wasteful government spending.

“Or that it still maintains, despite all the bloodletting since the paper was bought in 2000 by the Tribune Company, 13 foreign bureaus, more than any other large metropolitan daily except The Washington Post.

“Or that it is the only big-city daily that still employs a battalion of correspondents stationed in cities across the country.

What matters, apparently, is that a 66-year-old merchant in a “quaint” neighborhood misses “the old Hollywood starlets and socialites who graced the society pages.” For that, we are not the “world-class paper” that we used to be.

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Columbia Journalism Review: Tribune Company Has ‘No Plausible Reason’ to Continue Running the LA Times

In a sentiment that we’re sure echoes kindly in the certain Spring Street corridors, Columbia Journalism Review‘s Charles M. Madigan argues, essentially, that the Reaganomics model of journalism–massive, more-with-less, bottom-line driven, publicly-traded media companies–needs to stop, in favor of private local control. Namely, the Tribune Company (and some other media monoliths too) need to shed their assets, go private, and focus on their local communities. Let Chicago do Chicago and let LA do LA.

There is no plausible reason anymore for Tribune to be running publications in Los Angeles, Baltimore, Florida, Pennsylvania, or anywhere but Chicago. The arguments about synergies and efficiency and gigantic advertising footprints have all collapsed. They were strategies that made sense in an era that ended a decade ago.

People in those places despise you. They cannot wait for you to fail. They wish you only ill. No one can be a worker focused on customers in that atmosphere. Their days will be consumed by rumors of cuts to come and resentments of cuts already accomplished.

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The List of 209 Tribune Company Managers Who Made Bank

We will spare you a quip about making lists and checking them twice. Naughty execs? Not news. Naughty Tribune execs ditto. Seeing the list of who made what while hardworking scribes – including a dude who lost his eye covering the Iraq War for the LAT – were laid off, bought out or downgraded – very nice. Knowing all those people on the list may have to give the money back – even better.

Michael Miner at the Chicago Reader writes:

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Michael Eisner Slowpays Possible Tribune Company Takeover

There isn’t a single media person in Los Angeles who isn’t curious about the rumors that Michael Eisner is going to take control of the Tribune Company, and by extension the LA Times. Eisner has been relatively quite on the issue, but he yesterday he gave a rather coy interview to KTRS radio in St. Louis of all places.

“I guess somebody in the media put one and one and added it up to two,” Eisner said on The McGraw Millhaven Show. “It really adds up to minus one and a half.”

Eisner did concede that he had been buying up Tribune debt and that “I know all the people involved” in the restructuring.

Patti Blagojevich Does Not Like Sam Zell

The trial of corrupt former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich is underway and some fascinating evidence is starting to come out in the trial. The above audio is Blagojevih’s wife Patti cussing out Tribune Company owner Sam Zell for allowing the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board to write nasty things about her husband.

She later goes on to suggest approaching Zell to get him to fire the Tribune’s editorial board.

“Just fire ‘em … What would … William Randolph Hearst do, say, oh, I can’t interfere with my editorial board? … They’re hurting (the Tribune Company’s) business.”

The editors in question were never fired. Never thought we’d be siding with Sam Zell on anything, but we definitely have his back on this one.

Judge Doesn’t Throw Out Suit Against Zell

What’s that sound Sam Zell? Is that music you’re about to be forced to face?

Bloomberg reports:

U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer in Chicago rejected Zell’s request to dismiss the suit filed last year. The employees accuse Zell of working with board members and others who allegedly breached their fiduciary duty to the workers.

The judge, in a ruling posted Dec. 17 on the court’s Web site, said that Zell helped engineer the transaction that left Tribune with almost $13 billion in debt even if he wasn’t responsible to the Employee Stock Ownership Plan that privatized the newspaper and broadcasting company.

The company, owner of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times newspapers, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year. The employee stock ownership plan that acquired the shares in the buyback is a federally protected pension plan.

As many as 10,000 workers may have lost money as a result of how the shareholder buyout was executed, said Daniel Feinberg, an attorney for the employees in Oakland, California. While only six workers are named as plaintiffs in the suit, he said he will seek class-action certification to sue on behalf of other employees.

Via I Want Media

Previously on FBLA:

  • Zell Getting Sued by Staffers

  • Tribune Co. Names New CEO, Zell Still Chairman Though

    Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal writes:

    Randy Michaels today was named chief executive of Tribune Co., succeeding Sam Zell, who remains chairman of the Chicago-based media concern that has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for nearly a year.

    Michaels, 57, joined Tribune Co.’s executive ranks when Zell took the company private in a debt-heavy December 2007 transaction, becoming its chief operating officer half a year later. With the elevation to CEO, Michaels also will join the Tribune Co. board.

    Read the whole post here.

    Zell to Tribune: So It Didn’t Work Out

    This comes from Silicon Alley Insider. Sam Zell admits he’s never lost more money in a single business deal.

    See legions of laid off staffers – you’re not alone. Old Zeller feels your pain. He’s suffered too.

    Via Romenesko

    Previously on FBLA:

  • Reporters and Editors React to Sam Zell’s Announcement

  • More Names of LAT Layoffs

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