Sam Zell

Yes, another Lee Abrams bobble

Tribune's Lee Abrams, in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic, sought to clarify some of his image as...a not very informed observer of newspapers, even though he's the chief innovator of Sam Zell's pack of papers. Some of his observations make sense, and he endorses having reporters spend months on a good story — "We have to get back to that real deep investigative reporting and then let people know that we’re doing that." But then he repeats his most morale-sapping statement of late — that he didn't realize his most important paper, the Los Angeles Times, has reporters actually reporting news on the ground in Iraq.

JG: Why were you surprised to find out that your company has reporters based in Iraq?

LA: I was in Los Angeles, sitting in this casual little meeting waiting for someone to show up, and there was this lady who had just got back from four years in Iraq, I forgot her name, I met 300 people in two days, and she was telling me about security problems, bullets in the background and all that, and it really struck me that there should be pictures of her with Iraqi children in the newspaper to show she was there. Whereas in the newspaper, it just says, “Times Staff Reporter.” I really never thought about it, that there was really a person over there going through hell to get this.

JG: It didn’t strike you that there were employees of the newspaper over there doing this work?

LA: It was just ink to me, just reading. Oh yeah, here’s what’s happening in Iraq, but then I didn’t feel the human side.

What this means is that arguably the most prominent Tribune executive other than Zell didn't know that the story dateline that reads Baghdad means the journalist is actually there. Or that the byline is Times Staff Writer. (I guess then he wouldn't know that Times reporter Mark Fineman died in Iraq.) Of course, when Zell was in town in February he disparaged the idea of Times reporters gathering foreign news. So maybe it's in the new Tribune's DNA.


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