Tribune Company exits frying pan; does it enter the fire?

Posted by Mitchell - February 4, 2010 (entry 640)

So, Tribune Company Uberlord Sam Zell is now on record saying that he thinks that in 2010 the Tribune company will exit bankruptcy. Mind you, that Zell's track record on predictions isn't the greatest in the world, and he might lose the reins of the company entirely. But if we assume that Zell is correct just this once, what are we to make of it?

The Tribune, like a lot of other companies in this Great Recession, is keeping business as usual -- cutting workers' jobs, raking in $66 million in bonuses for some 700 Tribune managers, and fighting against its editorial staff. Oh, and there's that scandal where Tribune rigged their content in advance.

Meanwhile, the state and future of the newspaper industry (in the United States at least) in which the Tribune Company resides is widely considered quite dismal. Concrete signs abound: Newspaper ad revenues are as low today as they were in 1965, and the main business press organ of the newspaper industry -- Editor & Publisher -- went belly up after 125 years, even killing its online edition. Even in Chicago, the other major daily newspaper also filed for bankruptcy and had evidently been handling its bankruptcy proceedings a lot worse than Tribune.

Much has been written about the fate of the U.S. journalistic enterprise -- about how the collapse happened, about how the collapse is exaggerated, about how the future of journalism will be different, about how newspapers are no longer needed, even questioning the efficacy of following the news. What seems to be happening is that the corporate establishment seems to be exiting the enterprise of journalism, which potentially opens a golden opportunity for the independent media establishment (such as it is) to take the reins and establish. But resources -- staff, time, and especially money -- are badly needed, and that's hard to come by these days, leaving independent media in a state even more precarious than their corporate brethren.

This is a question to consider: how to help supercharge the independent media. Two friends and allies of CMA and of media activists everywhere -- Robert McChesney and John Nichols -- discussed this on Democracy Now! and have published a clarion call of their own which we should all heed.

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