Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Chandler Family Moves To Expedite A Sale Of Tribune Co.

--Written from San Francisco

The New York Times reports today that elements of the Chandler family represented by Thomas Unterman are moving to expedite a sale of parts of the Tribune Co., including, presumably, the L.A. Times, by encouraging new offers and perhaps participating in them.

This indicates the procedures leading to a possible sale are not moving fast enough to suit them, possibly because the offers thus far have not been high enough to satisfy the greedy. starry-eyed Tribune management, and possibly because that management -- CEO Dennis FitzSimons and his axis of stupidity -- is stalling in hopes of hanging on.

As the situation slowly develops, more than 100 Newsday reporters and editors have written FitzSimons a letter, objecting anew to all the cutbacks that have pared the Newsday staff by a third and dramatically reduced the scope of what that newspaper covers.

Newsday, of course, is another formerly Times-Mirror-owned paper. Its editor, John Mancini, quickly responded, "I applaud the passion and dedication of the (Newsday) staff...but I still think we are all putting out a great newspaper."

Mancini undoubtedly wants to make at least an honorable gesture to the staff, while at the same time not quite falling into the rebellion that cost Dean Baquet his job at the L.A. Times.

Speaking of Baquet, I notice that David Hiller, the new Times publisher who fired him, is now pleading with Times employees not to vote to allow the Teamsters union to represent them.

This is one subject upon which I agree with Hiller. It would not serve the staff in the long run, I believe, to unionize, and I always opposed it while working at the paper. Unions, by and large, no more care for the quality of newspapers than corporate managers like FitzSimons.

Hiller declares, in a memo to the staff, "I came out here with the mission of keeping the Times a great newspaper, and changing it, and making it better."

There are glimmers of hope in this assurance, but if Hiller really desired to keep the Times a great newspaper, he would not have fired Baquet.

Nonetheless, the reported decision to reduce the summary pages in Section A and restore Page 3 as a foreign news page, is one we can all agree with. It is said this is being done in accord with design editor Joe Hutchinson, which is a face saving gesture to him, but, after all, Hutchinson was partially responsible for the idiotic decision to have two summary pages before. I'd feel a lot better if he were leaving for Chicago, permanently.

Now, if only Hiller will decide to do away with the new silly type faces, another Hutchinson idea which the readers overwhelmingly don't like, I at least would say a good word for the new publisher. After all, when Hitler invaded Russia, Winston Churchill had a good word to say for Stalin in the House of Commons.

Hiller could of course become a good guy, if he called Baquet and offered him his old job back, with full authority.

In the meantime, let's hope the sale of the L.A. Times to a publicly-spirited local owner, will procede, by one means or another.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unions, by and large, no more care for the quality of newspapers than corporate managers like FitzSimons.

Ken -

So how does that reconcile with your support for state employee unions in the last special election? If they're bad for the Times, why aren't they also bad for the people of California?

If the union drives the Times into bankruptcy, what's the real harm to society? But, scale that up to an entire state, and we have a real problem.

So please explain the inconsistency in your position.

-Lawrence

12/13/2006 3:13 PM  

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