The Media Times, They are A-Changin'
Having had a fair share of friends who have chafed under the hellish corporate culture of the Tribune company, I'm trying hard not to cheer on news that they are finally selling the media chain they have mismanaged for so long.
In situations like these, having a single entrepreneur in charge of a chain can be a blessing or a curse. If said entrepreneur cherishes the newspaper's role in society and is willing to forego outlandish profit expectations, it can be a wonderful thing.
But, as the new owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the current owners of the Media News chain can attest, good intentions don't always add up to the kind of cashflowwhich can avoid cuts. Already, Zell has announced plans to sell the Chicago Cubs this year; no word yet on whether the company's newspapers -- which include the Orlando Sentinel and the Sun-Sentinel in Ft. Lauderdale -- may also be sold.
-- The Poynter Institute has a wonderful Q&A with one of the St. Pete Times' best feature writers -- and a friend of mine -- Lane DeGregory. She's won some significant awards this year, and talks expansively about covering the Steve Stanton story.
-- CBS seems to have given up on blazing any kind of new trail with Katie Couric on the Evening News, recruiting old TV political news hand Jeff Greenfield to come over from CNN as a contributor to the Evening News, CBS Sunday Morning and other shows on May 1. Known for humorous stories on wonky political topics and helping out on election nights at CNN, Greenfield will amp up the old white dude quotient on CBS, further confirming the network's turn toward tradition in the face of sinking ratings.
At this point, given how new producer Rick Kaplan has pushed Couric to be newsier and tougher -- her show's prediction that it was only a "matter of time" until Alberto Gonzales was ousted as Attorney General has not yet come true more than two weeks later -- it's tough to know why they didn't just stick with successful interim anchor Bob Schieffer.
--- I've written before in this space about short-sighted newspaper suits jettisoning TV critics even as the medium explodes with digital technology and implodes as news outlets struggle to redefine themselves. Add the Philadelphia Inquirer to the list of boneheaded institutions following news their star TV columnist Gail Shister is losing her column focused mostly on national news outlets to turn toward writing entertainment-based features anyone could write.
Gail is a friend who has impressed and sometimes frightened me with her dogged intensity in chasing stories. Call her up for more than five minutes and you become acutely aware that she has five leads she's not following while wasting time with you on the telephone. And while its tough to know whether her headstrong attitude scared editors into taking her column, it's hard to imagine someone who is better at what she does, 25 years into covering TV.
Even if dropping a column from someone like Gail seems a little like firing your sports columnist right before the World Series.