Sunday, December 07, 2008

Is Tribune Company Sinking?

The Wall Street Journal reports Monday that the Tribune Company - parent of the Los Angeles
Times, who is, in turn, the parent of the Times Community Newspapers, including our own Daily Pilot - has hired investment bank Lazard Ltd and the law firm Sidley Austin to advise the company on the possibility of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This is just one more truly sad bit of news from the Tribune Company since Sam Zell acquired it a year ago.

Those of us who have been following this disaster with much trepidation have see
n Zell and his minions methodically dismantle a once-proud news organization, chomping away at the staff like a Great White Shark - taking big chunks out every couple months or so. It is rumored that the Los Angeles Times, for example, is attempting to operate with a newsroom at half the strength it had last Christmas.


Zell has been attempting to unload the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field - both of which are part of the Tribune Company - but that deal has stalled. In the meantime, the mountain of debt Zell incurred when he purchased the organization continues to mount up. The Wall Street Journal article states that "the company's cash flow may not be enough to cover nearly $1 billion in interest payments due this year, and Tribune owes a $512 million debt payment in June."

This most recent revelation cannot bode well for the Daily Pilot, our newspaper of record for the past century.
How this news of the probable bankruptcy of it's parent will affect the Daily Pilot and it's sibling newspapers is unclear, but it's unlikely that the impact will be positive. The Daily Pilot is attempting to continue to provide it's readers with the important news of our area with what mounts to a skeleton crew. Among those who have departed or have been forced out are the Publisher, Tom Johnson and his second-in-command, Director of News and Online, Tony Dodero. With them went two decades of institutional memory and a huge chunk of the leadership so essential to keep things on an even keel. Managing Editor Brady Rhoades and City Editor Paul Anderson have been trying to keep things going since Dodero departed a month ago.


In an ironic bit of timing, former Daily Pilot Editor Bill Lobdell, wrote an interesting piece in OC Metro on December 1st basically predicting the demise of the Los Angeles Times.
His view as a former insider is fascinating. You can read that article HERE. Lobdell, who has a very special story of his own to tell, which he has done in a book being released within a couple weeks, was among those to depart the Los Angeles Times this year. His book, "Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America - and Found Unexpected Peace", goes on sale in February.


Over at the CM Press, the egotistical author - who fancies himself an ace reporter just because he played one badly for 19 seconds in a terrible movie 35 years ago - has pontificated that his "publication" can pick up the slack if the Daily Pilot succumbs during these difficult times at the Los Angeles Times. Good grief! The guy consistently fabricates issues, makes up "facts" to suit his own personal
bias and misrepresents issues and individuals. Anyone who considers him a reliable source of real, honest news reporting needs a wake-up call in the worst way.


I sure do
not want to see our Daily Pilot cease to exist. I keep hoping some wealthy local resident will team up with Johnson, for example, and pluck the Daily Pilot from the deep end of the pool. I keep listening for the hoof-beats of a white knight off in the distance. So far, I only hear silence.

So, if you've got a few bucks in the bank and are looking for a way to invest in t
he community and want to become a media mogul at the same time, drop me a note. I suspect we could round up a team to keep the Daily Pilot going, even though many people predict the complete demise of the print media. I, for one, think we need a viable free press - to keep our local leaders on the straight and narrow. If we rely on blogs like the CM Press - where "news" is made up - for accurate and timely information we are in big trouble.

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