Tuesday, September 19, 2006

From The Inept Tribune CEO, FitzSimons, More Double Talk

The L.A. Times, which has been doing a good job reporting the developments in the Tribune Co. efforts to downgrade the Times, and resistance to those moves in Los Angeles, today publishes letters to and from Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimons on the Op Ed page.

At a moment when it seems the Tribune Co. may dismiss L.A. Times editor Dean Baquet and publisher Jeff Johnson for opposing further cutbacks at the Times, FitzSimons simply engages in more double talk in his continuing campaign against both the Times and California in general. His tone is occasionally conciliatory, but all in all, his letter amounts to a brusque rejection of the pleas of 20 Los Angeles community leaders that he either cease the cost cutbacks at the Times or sell the newspaper. The LA Observed blog may go slightly too far when it says FitzSimons stated he would not sell the paper, but he comes so close that its interpretation is understandable.

To know that FitzSimons is not telling the truth when he claims that the paper has been improved under Tribune ownership, all you have to do is read the quote in the Wall Street Journal of Sept. 18 from former Times editor John Carroll:

Carroll declared: "I think the Tribune has squandered its good will inside the L.A. Times newsroom. I would say that if you look at the six years Tribune has owned the Times-Mirror papers, all those papers have been badly diminished. It's been a worse talent drain than anywhere I've seen."

FitzSimons is a sour old man. He cares not one jot for the quality of the newspapers he bought, and for him to claim he does, is a foul lie. Everyone at the L.A. Times knows this. His reference to the Staples scandal in the Mark Willes publishership, before Tribune took control, is inappropriate, because what the Tribune paper has done to the Times is far worse than anything Willes ever did.

Now, much attention will be directed at a Tribune board meeting Thursday in Chicago. The Tribune board, aside from three Chandler family representatives, is composed largely of business cronies of FitzSimons' management. But it will be hard put to ignore the criticisms of dissident stockholders who point out that the company as a whole has languished under its present management. Circulation is way off, advertising and revenue are down less, but still off. The stock price is flat after a big drop, and the papers as a whole are losing their good reputation.

Under these circumstances, pressure for a breakup of the Tribune Co. has been growing, and will continue to grow, unless the board takes quick voluntary steps for the breakup.

In his letter printed this morning, FitzSimons cites the glory days under Joseph Medill at the Chicago Tribune. Medill worked actively for the election of Abraham Lincoln, even giving promises Lincoln would not keep. Like FitzSimons, Medill was overbearing, but unlike FitzSimons, in usually a good cause.

The Medill days are long past. He's been dead more than 100 years. The FitzSimons days have been a disgrace. The time has come for him to appoint a liquidator and step aside, I hope without too much of a golden parachute.

In his column in Calendar on Saturday, Tim Rutten pointed out, by the way, that the top executives at the New York Times have been cutting their salaries to put more in the hands of outstanding reporters and other personnel. The very reverse has been happening with FitzSimons. The more he cuts, the larger his salary has grown. A selfish, greedy man!


The Los Angeles County Commission On Human Relations may have dealt a blow to its own future usefulness by voting, although not by a majority, to make a human rights award to Maher Hathout, who has, in the past, been an occasional apologist for terrorism, and an example of all-too-frequent Muslim duplicity. That's too bad. We owe the anti-terrorism expert Steven Emerson thanks for bringing Hathout's record to public attention. But in a letter published in the L.A. Times Wednesday morning, Hathout strikes a moderate tone, and it may be that he, like some other Muslims, is rethinking a philosophy of supporting violence. Hathout commendably now says, "I am also against religious extremists who perpetuate violence and death in the distorted name of their faith. I am engaged directly on a daily basis in countering the ideologies of extremism and nihilism that lead to terrorism and I continue to work closely with local and federal law enforcement to prevent further terrorism on American soil." The hope is that millions of Muslims will follow Hathout in this evolution toward humane policies.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have been doing a great job covering the tribune and its lack of understanding of the Times and I may add the newspaper business as a whole. I was the Director of Real Estate Advertising at the Times. I left a year ago competely frustrated and disappointed with the Tribune management. It is interesting that all of a sudden Jeff Johnson is against cutting the staff, but he didnt mind kicking John P and John C to the curb to get the Publishers spot. They got the push trying to save the troops and Jeff just waved good bye, bowed to the east and said John and John just didnt get it. The talk was John P and John C. went "native" out here, a big sin against Tribune.


9/19/2006 12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Attention all conspiracy buffs! Is someone intentionally trying to sink the Times? What else can one think when they ask readers to REQUEST the TV listings, or they will not receive them? That should produce plenty of cancellations and decisions not to bother to buy the weekend paper!

9/19/2006 3:37 PM  

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