Sam Zell and Randy Michaels have plans for the dozen newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, that make up the Tribune Co. And the plan is to cut as much news out of them as possible, shovel in as many ads as possible, and eliminate as many jobs as possible.
And they're in hurry to get started:
Mr. Michaels said of the changes, “This is going to happen quickly.”
Mr. Zell said, “I promise you he’s underestimating the level of aggressiveness with which we are attacking this whole challenge.”That's from a New York Times story today that follows on a Zell-Michaels doom memo from yesterday. Here's a little more from the story on the Zell-Michaels solution:
They said the company would aim for a 50-50 split between ads and news across all the news pages (excluding classified ads and advertising supplements). Mr. Michaels said this would mean eliminating 500 pages of news a week across all of the company’s 12 papers.
Eliminating 500 pages of news should free up many writers and editors from having to come into work anymore. But don't worry about them, they're arrogant people who just don't get it. Indeed, Zell and Michaels have determined there are too many writers and editors around already:
Mr. Michaels said that, after measuring journalists’ output, “when you get into the individuals, you find out that you can eliminate a fair number of people while eliminating not very much content.”
Aside from instituting a company wide byline count, the two visionaries have found another prescription to save on writers and editors: a liberal application of maps, graphics and charts.
In his note to employees, Mr. Zell wrote that Tribune papers would be redesigned, beginning with The Orlando Sentinel, on June 22. Surveys show readers want “maps, graphics, lists, ranking and stats,” he wrote. “We’re in the business of satisfying customers, and we will respond to what they say they want.”
So readers want half of their paper to be advertisements? Something - the $12.8 billion in debt, perhaps? - tells me Zell and Michaels are being responsive to someone other than the customer.