New York Times story skewers Tribune Company management


Under the headline “At Flagging Tribune, Tales of a Bankrupt Culture,” Wednesday’s New York Times carried a lengthy story – running to five Internet pages if read online – that detailed how old timers have been shocked and dismayed by how Tribune Company has been run since the leveraged buyout led by Sam Zell closed in December 2007 and led to the company’s current position in Chapter 11 reorganization. In particular it recounts tales of CEO Randy Michaels that will come as no surprise to RBR-TVBR readers.

The article by David Carr begins with a particularly shocking story that Michaels early on tried to get a waitress to bare her breasts to him in the presence of several other new Trib colleagues. He does, then, add that Michaels has categorically denied that the event ever took place.

The Times article then reviews lots of stories about the changes brought about by the “radio” folks who were brought in to salvage the old media dinosaur and the resistance they met from employees, particularly those on the newspapers side. And, of course, there’s much about the financial troubles that sent the $13.2 billion (that’s the correct figure, by the way, not the $8.2B in the NYT) LBO careening into bankruptcy court.

To read the article on the NYT website click here.

Tribune Co. declined to comment on the NYT article, but did provide RBR-TVBR with a memo that Michaels sent out to staffers in anticipation of the story’s publication.

“We have been informed that tomorrow’s New York Times will run a column written by David Carr (  Many of the questions Mr. Carr asked us for this article concerned events, distortions and rumors more than two years old.    He will apparently paint the work environment at Tribune as hostile, sexist and otherwise inappropriate.  Many of the rumors Mr. Carr referenced were spread by an ex-Chicago Tribune employee who is now a contributing writer to the New York Times.   Mr. Carr has made clear that he is digging up these old allegations because he believes that decisions about the company’s management are about to be made, and he wants to influence those decisions.  Mr. Carr knows that an outside firm investigated the most substantial of these allegations, and that they were found to be without substance.   Mr. Carr intends to use them anyway.

As you know, it is our intention to create a fun, non-linear creative environment.   I am tremendously proud of the results of that creative culture.  Our websites on the P2P platform are the most advanced in media.  We have reconfigured production of the newspaper with standard ad sizes, Media on Demand Modules, and combined editing, design, and layout functions using technology.   We have ‘Breaking News Centers’ that eliminate redundancy and give newsmakers one contact point for each market’s most powerful news media.   TOPS, TONS, and BRUTUS have changed the way TV is produced and aired. 

It is our intention to have creative environment.  A creative culture must be built on a foundation of respect for each other.  Our goal is an environment where people are free to speak up, free to challenge authority, and free to fail on the way to success.  Our culture is NOT about being offensive or hurtful.  This is supported by our Harassment Policy.  It’s in the Employee Handbook which is posted on TribLink—Section 3.

The fact that so many at other media companies dwell on the way it used to be creates great opportunity for those of us willing to rethink our opportunities and recast our culture.  Ignore the noise.  Treat each other with respect. Have fun, and let’s go create the future.


RBR-TVBR observation: No news here, just a comprehensive rehash of events and allegations which were already well known. You have to wonder, though, why a reporter at the New York Times cares that a bunch of Tribune execs played poker and smoked cigars in the palatial office that once belonged to Tribune icon Col. Robert McCormick.