Monday, January 21, 2008
Is Sam Zell for real, part 2
A third Courant writer has responded.
1. Is Sam Zell the real thing? I hope so.
2. Are you encouraged/discouraged by his speech, and why? I was heartily encouraged. For the first time since I've worked at the Courant, a corporate bigwig has publicly recognized the fact that you cannot do more with less in the newspaper business. Unlike the previous Tribune regime, which was not-so-slowly bleeding the company to death while currying favor with Wall Street, Zell said the other day that the first duty of Tribune papers is to readers, then advertisers.
3. Do you agree with him about the eventual decline of The Courant if it remains, simply, a print newspaper? Yes, but it's not just the Courant -- every newspaper needs to figure out how to best use the Internet. Zell's publishing man, Randy Michaels, said something to the effect that Tribune newspapers need to think of themselves as 24-hour news-gathering operations that publish once a day, for the record. As someone who blogs and files updates to courant.com in addition to writing stories, this makes sense to me.
4. Is there a sense of liberation amongst the staff, or are people worried? Some people are worried, some feel liberated. I'm greatly concerned about the company's gigantic debt load, but the bottom line is, it's still up to me to do my job as best I can. However, I get the sense for the first time in years, that doing my job well might actually count for something within the company.
(UPDATE: A few more words from this Courant reporter)
News this morning that James O'Shea was axed from the LAT for refusing to make more cuts tempers my optimism somewhat. I'm hoping David Hiller acted unilaterally and not on orders from Chicago.
Even if Zell is what he says he is, he's only the guy at the top. It's very much up to journalists, individually and collectively, to make the paper relevant and essential reading. I hope that's something Zell recognizes and values, but I guess we'll see.