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.
Recall that when Tribune owned the New York Daily News (and there were historic reasons for that relationship that transcended shareholder value) the buzz in New York was that all of the Daily News profits were shipped to Chicago and dumped into Lake Michigan.
The atmosphere has changed so radically that an argument can be made that only local markets in advertising and news can help news companies return to stability for the long term.
What is certain is that Chicago can never care as much about Los Angeles, Baltimore, or anywhere else as it cares about itself. And caring about one’s self is a crucial component of success. All great news companies deserve local ownership.
In this process, avoid the creative debt nightmares that wrecked the company the last time around.
Pretty sure just about every journo who survived the Sam Zell-era carnage at the LA Times (and those who didn’t, too) would agree.