Did Tribune Co. offer up editor's head?

In yet another lesson on how to make a bad newspaper ...

Among the many reports this morning on the arrest of Democratic Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, Gawker spotted this wretchedly juicy bit of unethical non-journalisticness, which was allegedly perpetrated by Los Angeles Times parent Tribune Co.

Buried within the 76-page FBI affidavit dealing with the governor's alleged bribery efforts lay the details of a diabolical exchange between Tribune Co. and the Gov's office.

According to the text of the affidavit, it appears that a Tribune financial advisor signaled the willingness of Tribune's owner we assume that's our own Sam Zell to use reorganizations and budget cuts to eliminate a wrong-thinking deputy editorial page editor, whose opinion of the Illinois governor was less than favorable. Less than two weeks later, guess who was suddenly willing to talk about funneling a few tax dollars to the debt-ridden Tribune's Wrigley Field?

From the affidavit via Gawker:

In a November 11 intercepted call, [Blagojevich's chief of staff John] Harris allegedly told Blagojevich that Tribune Financial Advisor talked to Tribune Owner and Tribune Owner "got the message and is very sensitive to the issue." Harris told Blagojevich that according to Tribune Financial Advisor, there would be "certain corporate reorganizations and budget cuts coming and, reading between the lines, he's going after that section." Blagojevich allegedly responded. "Oh. That's fantastic." After further discussion, Blagojevich said, "Wow. Okay, keep our fingers crossed. You're the man. Good job, John."

In a further conversation on November 21, Harris told Blagojevich that he had singled out to Tribune Financial Advisor the Tribune's deputy editorial page editor, John McCormick, "as somebody who was the most biased and unfair." After hearing that Tribune Financial Advisor had assured Harris that the Tribune would be making changes affecting the editorial board, Blagojevich allegedly had a series of conversations with Chicago Cubs representatives regarding efforts to provide state financing for Wrigley Field.

The editor in question was not let go in the round of layoffs that followed, according to the affidavit.

Nonetheless, the details might help explain why some LA Times staffers cringe when Zell refers to them as "partners" in e-mail.

TJ Sullivan

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