Zell tells it like it is for newspapers

Sam Zell, the real estate tycoon who now runs the combined Times-Mirror/Tribune newspaper empire,  said some shocking statements today. 

Mr. Zell was on the CNBC “Squawk Box” show (June 27) when he said,
“I think that because newspapers have historically been monopolies, I think they’ve been insulated from reality. I, you know, am in the position where I’m going to have to, quote-unquote, deliver reality.

I think we can have terrific newspapers, but I think the newspapers have to respond to their customers. In many cases a lot of the things we’re doing right now were all identified in focus groups over the last eight years. And the focus groups were made, were taken, and nobody paid attention to them.”

You are right on Mr. Zell. Not only did the “editorial elite” ignore the research, they laughed about it.

It’s time you model newspapers after real businesses starting with demoting the “executive editors” to proof readers and replace them with real managers with MBAs.

Major newspapers have been monopolies, owned by absentee, wealthy families who let left wing editors with a life-long hate for business, run the show.  




6 thoughts on “Zell tells it like it is for newspapers

  1. Sam Zell in action:

    Arrogant journalist: I hear you guys talking a lot about revenue and the bottom line and all that, but I’m a journalist? I kind of want to know what your viewpoints are on journalism and the role it plays in the community, because we’re not the Pennysaver, we’re a newspaper.

    Zell: My attitude on journalism is very simple. I want to make enough money so I can afford you. It’s really that simple, OK? You need to, in effect, help me by being a journalist that focuses on what our readers want, and therefore generates more revenue. We understand unequivocally that the heart and soul of this business is the editorial side of the business. That’s our content. But if we don’t have the revenue, it doesn’t really matter.

    Arrogant journalist: But what readers want are puppy dogs, and, I mean, we also need to inform the community, not just —

    Zell: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I can’t agr — You’re giving me what I call the classic journalistic arrogance — deciding that puppies don’t count. I don’t know anything about puppies. What I’m interested in is, how can we generate additional interest in our product and additional revenue, so we can make our product better and better. And hopefully we get to the point where our revenue is so significant that we can do puppies and Iraq. Fuck you.

  2. My 13-year-0ld daughter met a remarkable girl at camp who was the best artist we had ever seen.

    She asked her if she was going to be an artist when she grows up? She said no, are you going to be a ninja?

    Funny response. Her parents told her being an artist is not a real career; neither is a journalism. Maybe in the early 20th century.

  3. The summer of 2008 may go down in history as the time the bottom fell out of the newspaper market.

    Last week approximately 10 newspapers officially announced they would further slash payrolls, one said it would outsource all its printing, and Tribune Co., one of the biggest publishers in the country, with the combined assets of Times-Mirror and The Chicago Tribune chains, said it might sell its iconic headquarters tower in Chicago and the building that houses the Los Angeles Times.

    The breathtakingly rapid decline of the entire segment of newspaper companies has surprised even the most pessimistic financial analysts’ reports.

    “They’re in survival mode now,” said Mike Simonton, a media analyst at Fitch Ratings, a credit analysis agency.

    “We had very grim expectations for the sector,” Simonton said, and publishers have either met or surpassed his estimates for how bad the results would be.

    Last week alone, deep staff cuts were announced at The Hartford Courant and The (Baltimore) Sun — two Tribune papers — as well as at The Palm Beach Post and the Daytona Beach-Journal, while Bay Area chain said a second wave of cuts are needed. The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press said they would reduce the head count in their joint operations by 7 percent through buyouts. The Boston Herald said up to 160 employees would be laid off as it outsourced its printing operations, and in a memo explaining the terms of its job security pledge, the Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., said it is operating in the red. The week before, McClatchy Co. said companywide staff cuts of 10 percent were coming.

    Tribune, meanwhile, told its employees Wednesday that it hoped to wring more value out of its “underutilized” real estate in Chicago and Los Angeles, extending an asset-selling program Tribune is pursuing to service a $13 billion debt load, much of which it took on from going private.

    Tribune has already reached a deal to sell one of its largest newspapers, Long Island-based Newsday, but ran into delays early this month in liquidating Wrigley Field, where the Chicago Cubs play, when negotiations for the field’s purchase by a state agency broke down over financing. Tribune is also moving to sell the Cubs.

    Tribune has enough money to meet its debt requirements this year, bond analysts have said, but it must make headway on asset sales in order to meet its obligations in 2009. They will have buyers for its real estate, but nothing else at this point.

  4. Hey Mick,
    The man has a real point. More and more, it seems like the leading newspapers are acting like government installations than news reporting facilities.

    BTW, could you update my link – I’ve moved my blog address.


  5. The 15 Personal Skills You Need on the Job

    This list is from a management non-profit. It’s good advice that I know journalists never learned in the workplace or at school.

    Employers are looking for workers who have that special something: the skills, tendencies and attributes that help to keep productivity—and

    What are they? Businesses are looking for employees with strong “personal” skills, according to ACT research. Keep these in mind, because employers
    certainly are.

    Carefulness: Do you have a tendency to think and plan carefully before acting? This helps with reducing the chance for costly errors, as well as keeping a steady workflow going.

    Cooperation: Willingness to engage in interpersonal work situations is very important in the workplace.

    Creativity: You’ve heard of “thinking outside the box”? Employers want innovative people who bring a fresh perspective.

    Discipline: This includes the ability to keep on task and complete projects without becoming distracted or bored.

    Drive: Businesses want employees who have high aspiration levels and work hard to achieve goals.

    Good attitude: This has been shown to predict counterproductive work behaviors, job performance and theft.

    Goodwill: This is a tendency to believe others are well-intentioned.

    Influence: Groups need strong leaders to guide the way. Influence includes a tendency to positively impact social situations by speaking your mind and becoming a group leader.

    Optimism: A positive attitude goes a long way toward productivity.

    Order: “Where did I put that?” A tendency to be well organized helps employees to work without major distractions or “roadblocks.”

    Safe work behaviors: Employers want people who avoid work-related accidents and unnecessary risk-taking in a work environment.

    Savvy: This isn’t just about job knowledge, but knowledge of coworkers and the working environment. It includes a tendency to read other people’s motives from observed behavior and use this information to guide one’s thinking and action.

    Sociability: How much you enjoy interacting with coworkers affects how well you work with them.

    Stability: This means a tendency to maintain composure and rationality in stressful work situations.

    Vigor: This is a tendency to keep a rapid tempo and keep busy.

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