Chicago Editor Quits as Tribune Cuts Deeper
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 15, 2008; C01
“Samuel “Sam” Zell (born September 1941) is a U.S.-born billionaire and real estate entrepreneur. He is co-founder and Chairman of Equity Group Investments, a private investment firm. With an estimated net worth of US$6 billion, he is ranked as the 52nd richest American by Forbes. In April 2007, Zell leveraged a buyout of the Tribune Company, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and Newsday, and owner of the Chicago Cubs.”
- Peddling the iconic Michigan Avenue Tribune Tower, so he can put the Trib offices in some back-alley warehouse.
- Forcing editor resignation after resignation at the LA Times and Tribune, as they refuse the gutting of staff to maximize profit at the expense of content.
- Putting the Chicago Cubs up for sale, as well as Wrigley Field, the nation’s last true baseball venue, which can be named Joe Doaks Park (if the money is sufficient).
Maybe Zell, the man with small-time ethics wrapped in a big-time ego, sees himself as a Murdoch impersonator, but both the LA Times and Chicago Tribune are dissolving under his ego and inorance. If his idea is to save news by killing off reportage and investigative journalism, he’s on the wrong track. Television and the Internet have already wounded newspapers with celebrity and (endless) opinion pieces. What remains–even though better papers than Zell’s seem to misunderstand it–is the thing that made newspapering worthwhile in the first place, investigative reporting.
In the 35 years since Woodward and Bernstein brought down Richard Nixon, newspapers have slowly watched the relevance they once held as Thomas Jefferson’s hope for a free and activist press to counter-balance political malfeasance. Bought off, forced off or gone by their own disinterest in anything but their latest stock-price–take your pick of reasons for the decline.
But at a time when the newspapering business needs less Wall Street and more Bully Pulpit, Sam Zell is more undertaker than evangelist.