For those who study or pay attention to the media and how they work, it is completely fascinating watching the effects of the New York Times’ story about the Chicago Tribune.
The story characterized the Tribune offices as a frat house and when the story came out, people noticed. First, it isn’t often that one media company takes such a well directed shot at another company. Second, this had all the juicy details to create a scandal. And we all know what happens when there is a scandal.
The Tribune Company had enough problems before this hit. Bankruptcy, layoffs, bad press because of its owner Sam Zell, and lawsuits from former employees suing Zell all affected the credibility of Tribune Company. But this story? It hit the media world like a meteorite.
And the Chicago Tribune is on the run. Lee Abrams resigned late last week and the Chicago Tribune ran a story in Wednesday’s Tribune announcing that Randy Michaels would be leaving the Tribune by week’s end. He had to. The heat from the media spotlight is affecting Tribune Company’s image and it needs any sort of positive news it can find while it goes through public bankruptcy proceedings.
John Kass, the Trib’s political columnist, wrote a column today about what was really happening at the Tribune. It read like the protests you see from a political figure who has been caught in a scandal, an acknowledgment that something is wrong, then a recap of all that is being done right.
Memo to Kass, who has put enough political figures’ feet to the fire to figure this out — It won’t work. The frame has been set. The Tribune is a frat house and the two men who ran the frat house, Abrams and Michaels, must pay.
So has the Tribune. It’s credibility just took another hit. And the bloodletting at the top, however much deserved, won’t make it any easier for those doing their jobs in the trenches. As for the story, it will be interesting to see how much longer it continues to run.