Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Something In The Water

James O'Shea was a Tribune loyalist, a man sent out to the L.A. Times to bring the recalcitrants to heel.

Sure there's something in the water out there, because Mr. O'Shea bit the hand that fed him and has now been "let go" as they say when someone gets the sack but it's meant to sound like a mutual agreement to part.

Rein in costs, cut the budget in the newsroom, he was told. Instead, he lambastes the Tribune Company for being short-sighted when it comes to the newspaper industry. There's no fat to trim, he discovered, because the L.A. Times was already lean.

How about covering some serious news, Mr. O'Shea has suggested in his closing remarks. News analysis and reportage costs money, his superiors realize. You have to pay reporters while they do research, and where's the advertising revenue in that?

How about giving readers more for their money, Mr. O'Shea suggested, and he re-worked the weekend magazine section and added a bit of fluff for the ladies. Revenues went up. Apparently not enough for Mr. O'Shea's boss, however.

Sam Zell has just bought the Tribune Company, and he's taken a hands-off approach. Makes sense, in that he knows fuck all about the newspaper game. He knows financials and cash flow, while the journalists know how to get the story and how to get it to print.

What the journalists forget is that the newspaper is not the only game in town when it comes to the Tribune Company. The Super Bowl is coming up, and there's high-priced advertising costs to be met. When Mr. O'Shea watches the commercials for CareerBuilder.com and Cars.com, he will know where Tribune Co.'s priorities lie.

Sixty seconds worth of amusing advertising, or a few more journalists on staff? Which is the better investment?

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