Tuesday, December 27, 2005

FitzSimons Answers MoveOn.Org On Tribune Co. Cutbacks

Dennis FitzSimons, the CEO of the ill-conceived Tribune Co., may not have been willing to meet with or acknowledge MoveOn.Org's criticisms of Tribune cutbacks at a recent New York investors meeting. But he has finally responded in an e-mail reported in the New York Times.

In it, FitzSimons hints that it was not only about layoffs at the L.A. Times and other Tribune newspapers, but it was also about getting rid of deadwood and hiring a better staff.

This helps explain why, right after the layoffs, the L.A. Times is already hiring again, although not in great numbers.

For instance, last week, it became known that the LAT had hired Dawn Chmielewski, a tech columnist at the San Jose Mercury, as a multimedia writer. This is in accord with past Times layoff and buyout practices. Several times now in recent years there have been such moves, only to be followed by a creep back up in terms of numbers of Times staff.

Of course, in this case, the Times has dropped more than 250,000 in circulation, so the staff levels may stay down more than they have in the past.

But in his e-mail to MoveOn.Org, FitzSimons denied its charges that in releasing staff at all its papers, the Tribune Co. is opening the way to reduced quality of its product.

The New York Times story by Katharine Seelye, appearing Monday, Dec. 26, quotes FitzSimons as saying:

"Outstanding journalism isn't just about staffing levels," going on to say in the NYT paraphrase, it was about having a talented staff.

Since the layoffs canned, among others, at least one Pulitzer Prize winner, and transferred others, FitzSimons' view of what constitutes a talented staff may differ from yours and mine. What he apparently seems to mean is a bland staff.

"Tribune's commitment to quality journalism and to serving the readers and advertisers of its local communities hasn't changed one bit," the FitzSimons e-mail continued. "But the media environment is changing and we have to change with it.

"Tribune's edge is its unique ability to cover its local communities like no one else can. In order to keep that edge, we have to remain financially strong."

That's the argument the Tribune executives have been using for cutting back all their papers. Of course, to maintain that the papers haven't been harmed by the cutbacks is ridiculous, and the L.A. Times in particular just isn't the paper it was under Otis Chandler.

But at least FitzSimons has begun to respond to his critics. Now, if he will only, lay off himself, the response may be meaningful.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"and the L.A. Times in particular just isn't the paper it was under Otis Chandler." or the economic landscape the same as it was under Otis. Or the same president. Or the same price for gas. Times change, regardless of our desire.

12/27/2005 8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of people who were not dead wood left the Times. There are a couple of truly vindictive and nasty people there, all the way up into the masthead.

12/28/2005 8:21 AM  

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