The reason Sam Zell and company get so much attention (and let's face it, derision) here is not that they want to force change on institutions like the Times and KTLA — it's that they seem so clueless and driven by lower motives. They don't think before they speak or appreciate that some old failed ideas are only "new" to them. (And in Zell's case, that he has personal animus bordering on zealous resentment of his newspaper's best assets.) Couple of things bring this up today. First, Jeff Bercovici at Portfolio finally had enough of those sophmoric Tribune news releases and calls them what they are: cliche and unfunny.
We get it. You're not like all the other moguls. You're an off-the-chain, out-of-the-box, envelope-pushing radical. No cliché is too strong to describe your utter disregard for convention.
Now, please, for the love of God, give it a rest with the wacky press releases already.
It's not that using Borscht Belt humor and boob jokes to communicate with the public is indecorous for an $8 billion corporation. Let's face it: Tribune isn't worth anything like $8 billion these days.
It's not that there's something grotesque and callous about a company whose executives are having a chuckle even as they draw up plans to put hundreds more workers out on the street in the midst of a recession. We know that's not the kind of thing that keeps you up at night, Sam.
No, it's the thuddingly, wince-inducingly unfunny nature of the jokes themselves....A giant conglomerate full of professional writers and producers, and the best you can come up with is material Henny Youngman cut from his bar mitzvah speech?
Like I've said, one of the most unfortunate things about Zell's Tribune takeover is that the creative growth of the people in charge seems to have stopped with '90s morning radio. That leads me to another development, which came in by email. In Chicago, the backside of Tribune ID badges have been changed from dated bromides about good corporate citizenship to...imagery that's not any more cutting edge. Old on the left, new on the right:
A.F.D.I. is a Lee Abrams-ism: Always friggin' do it. Chicago Reader