More Zell damage control

How often can the people who actually have to run the L.A. Times cover for Sam Zell's...Zelliousnness? This time, Publisher David Hiller sent the Washington bureau a valentine assuring the staff that, despite the blurtings of Chairman Sam, their work is valued. I notice in the memo that they are sending quite a team — including the online editor — to the Gridiron Dinner this year.

From: McManus, Doyle
Sent: Thu 2/28/2008 2:07 PM
Subject: David Hiller & Russ Stanton


David Hiller and Russ Stanton will be here next week for the annual Gridiron dinner, and they are setting aside extra time to meet with us on the future of the bureau.

We haven't confirmed times and dates, but we will probably have a breakfast with one or both of them next Friday. John Arthur, Scott Kraft, Davan Maharaj and Meredith Artley of are also expected to be here.

Meanwhile, David asked me to relay this message:

"I am extremely proud of what you and our colleagues do every day. Having an excellent national report coming out of Washington is extremely important to our readers in Los Angeles. In addition, we provide most of the DC stories used by other Tribune papers, as intended by the design and staffing of the bureaus when the current arrangement was set up.

"Times and business realities have changed dramatically for all of us. We need to look at everything we are doing, and how we do it. We are literally in a fight for the financial viability of our great news enterprise. This will involve how we make coverage decisions across all areas, including how we collaborate with other papers.

"Given the state of the business, and the uncertainty the prospect of these changes creates for our team, we need to get to decisions fast. We also need to do it in a way that we continue to field a team of exceptional reporters and editors."

Thanks, as always

McManus is the bureau chief in Washington who tried to reassure the staff the other day that Zell didn't really mean it when he trashed them. Stanton is the paper's new Editor, Arthur the Managing Editor, Kraft the National Editor, Maharaj the Business Editor and Artley the Executive Editor of online. Previously, the staff was reminded that Zell can't actually tell them it's OK to look at porn in the office. And despite Zell's stated desire, there are no strip club ads in the paper, and may never be.

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