Wow. Quite a piece by David Carr in the New York Times detailing the transition from the pre-Sam-Zell conservative Tribune Company to what Carr describes as a “frat house.” Carr delves into widespread sexual harassment within the company as well as obscene executive bonuses that were doled out as management laid off hundreds of journalists throughout the company.
At a time when the media industry has struggled, the debt-ridden Tribune Company has done even worse. Less than a year after Mr. Zell bought the company, it tipped into bankruptcy, listing $7.6 billion in assets against a debt of $13 billion, making it the largest bankruptcy in the history of the American media industry. More than 4,200 people have lost jobs since the purchase, while resources for the Tribune newspapers and television stations have been slashed.
The new management did transform the work culture, however. Based on interviews with more than 20 employees and former employees of Tribune, Mr. Michaels’s and his executives’ use of sexual innuendo, poisonous workplace banter and profane invective shocked and offended people throughout the company. Tribune Tower, the architectural symbol of the staid company, came to resemble a frat house, complete with poker parties, juke boxes and pervasive sex talk.
Bravely, LA Times star columnist Steve Lopez went on record for the piece.
“You have advertising wrapping around sections and being disguised as news and empty desks all around you, and then you read about these ridiculous bonuses and feathering their nests with severances, you want to scream.”