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Tribune Co. Owner Sam Zell Speaks the F-You Heard Around the Media World



I've been a journalist for nearly 20 years, at papers which have endured strikes, cutbacks, layoffs, sales and more, and there's one thing which remains constant about us Fourth Estaters.

We love challenging authority -- even, occasionally, those who employ us.Sam_zell_03_cmyk

So it was with some dismay that I read this Gawker story about new Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell's acerbic performance at an employee forum held by the Orlando Sentinel (UPDATE: This is the company which owns the Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sentinel and Los Angeles Times, among other newspapers). Apparently, after a question from a journalist who wondered if the newspaper's mission might not be corrupted if it worked too hard to chase reader preferences, Zell added an f-word for emphasis under his breath.

Zell reportedly has apologized for his lapse to the photojournalist he insulted. But at a time when every journalist in mainstream media is worried about their future, such astonishing resistance to a contrary view doesn't fill me with confidence for Tribune's future management.

Imagine trying to keep Zell from putting the latest Britney Spears story on the cover of the Chicago Tribune or stripping ads across the front of the Los Angeles Times.

An f-you might not be the half of the response -- hardly a quality management technique. (UPDATE: Tribune Co. spinmeisters say Zell was reacting to being asked that question at several papers and the perception that the photog, who was walking away from him while he answered, wasn't listening. Read the Sentinel's take here)

Check out the moment for yourself:


[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:43pm]


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