Funeral March of the Buffoons



Three more cronies of ousted Tribune Company CEO Randy Michaels are also leaving the building. Phil Rosenthal and Steve Mills report in the Tribune that Tribune Interactive's president, Marc Chase, senior vice president and COO, Jeff Kapugi, and executive vice president, Carolyn Gilbert — all, like Michaels, Clear Channel Communications vets — have resigned and that more departures are expected.

There's a whiff of nostalgia to the Trib story: Rosenthal and Mills recall that the madcap press release announcing Chase's arrival in the spring of 2008 attributed the announcement to "Hugh Jass — a Reputable Media Source," and said Chase "obviously blackmailed his way into a position he is not remotely qualified to hold." I called it "the sort of exercise anyone would laugh at who suspects laughter is now in his job description."

But at least in the newsroom, not everyone did. A few days later Tribune columnist Dawn Turner Trice accepted a Studs Terkel Award from the Community Media Workshop. She was introduced at the ceremony by feature writer Rick Kogan, and both of them took the occasion to comment on the ebbing tide of maturity at the Tower.

"Communication has to change," said Kogan in his remarks. "What troubles me is that these people, these new owners and the people at the Tribune who are sort of shamelessly taking off their coats and ties and wearing sweaters to cotton up to the iconoclastic, motorcycle-riding crowd, they seem to have forgotten, and I have not heard anything about it from these guys, that the soul of a newspaper and the soul of a city is in the word."

And then Trice said, "If you did a Nexis search you'll find that over the last couple of weeks we've had far more stories about Barack Obama's abysmal bowling record than we've had about the release of a Justice Department memo that authorized torture.... Over the last couple of weeks we've had far more stories about Barack and the Reverend Jeremiah Wright than stories on the U.S. attorney general appearing to have fabricated a key event leading up to the 9/11 attacks.... Young people often ask me if it's worth going into journalism these days and I tell them yes, even though these are weird and unsettling times, when job cuts and buyouts and shrinking news space loom large, when tycoons and, yes, buffoons are buying up newspapers unaware and unconcerned of their mission."

Two and a half years later, the Tribune sale didn't work out even for the tycoons and buffoons. If the last one out turns off the lights, may that at least be a reporter with standards.

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