Zell to DC bureau: 'unsupportable'

Zell cartoonZell bleep cartoonZell cartoon
Chicago Tribune media columnist Phil Rosenthal covers yesterday's Sam Zell attack on the LAT Washington bureau, and it goes beyond the psychic bloodbath I picked up. Zell wants the Times and other papers in the Tribune bureau to work together — no biggie there — but he also signaled again that he's not impressed by the LAT as a brand or, apparently, as a news operation. Also, Seattle cartoonist David Horsey penned a large panel on Zell, who he calls in a blog "the most vulgar embodiment of a pervasive bean counter mentality that is threatening the best of American journalism." Those are snippets above, the whole cartoon is here.

Highlights of Rosenthal's column:

Repeating recent comments about how the media business is in crisis, Zell said he recognized the importance of national news and news from Washington, but the bureau's structure is "unsupportable," and its "bloated" size is "unequivocally economically unjustifiable." And he singled out the Los Angeles Times' contingent.

"Sam thumped them pretty hard," one attendee said....

Zell noted the Chicago Tribune has greater cash flow than the Times, but the Times has more than twice the number of staffers in the capital, at 54. Times bureau chief Doyle McManus corrected him, pointing out Los Angeles' number is actually 47. ( Chicago, it turns out, has 16.)

"Your revenue is down 20 percent," Zell fired back. "How many of the 47 did you get rid of?"

Zell also pointed out that that is far more people than have been covering California's Orange County in the Times' home market.

Hmm, the precipitous cash flow drop has just been in recent months — and has nothing to do with Washington. Does he intend to change editorial strategies and fire people every time the ad department fails? Or hire a bunch of reporters if the ad people have a good month? With his kind of morale-sapping attacks, the Times is going to have a hard time hiring anybody good or keeping the best of what they have.

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