Sunday, September 7, 2008

Grave Dancer Not Happy

Here's the Tribune letter complaining about the Business Week story that the magazine published last month. Sam Zell wants credit where credit is not yet due ...

Tribune Co.: We're Adapting to the Times
Your article about Tribune Co. and Sam Zell ("The 'Grave Dancer' Takes a Tumble," In Depth, Aug. 11) was a disappointing compilation of inaccuracies, half-truths, and incomplete reporting.

The article fails to provide any context to help readers understand the fundamental change the media industry is currently undergoing. Battered in the short term by a weak economy that has eroded real estate, employment, and automotive classified advertising and in the long term by advertising's migration to the Internet, newspapers are experiencing the worst downturn in decades.

As a result, Tribune and its peers have been forced to reduce expenses—and staff—inside and outside the newsroom. And yet, despite these reductions, Tribune still has the two largest local newsgathering organizations in the country—in Los Angeles and Chicago—and continues producing great journalism.
The story also didn't explain our strategy to fully leverage the content of our diverse media products—across print, broadcast, and the Internet—and to develop a new, sustainable business model for newspapers.
Finally, the article missed many of the positive things going on at Tribune.

We're building a streamlined, single-technology platform. It will ingest and process audio, video, photos, text, graphics, and other content and process it for dissemination to TV stations, printing plants, Web sites, PDAs, cell phones, and other devices.

Based on direct feedback from our readers, we are redesigning our papers to keep them relevant in a world of electronic consumption. We're also resizing them to better match user habits. We can't afford to print a two-hour read when consumers typically spend only 20 minutes with the paper.

In broadcasting, our local TV stations generally outperformed the industry in the first quarter (direct sales were up in almost all markets). We're launching or expanding local news in Chicago, Miami, San Diego, Denver, and elsewhere. Using inexpensive programming and unique promotions, we've relaunched our national cable channel, WGN America, which reaches 72 million homes and is getting record ratings.

Online, we're developing the platform and the creative programming to enable our Web sites to engage in more e-commerce and social networking. We're also moving into other methods of content delivery, such as the iPhone (AAPL) and the Kindle (AMZN).

There are many examples of change at Tribune—driven not just from the top, but from the thousands of employees who believe in this industry and, most importantly, in our company. We're moving more swiftly and transparently than others in the industry, so we're getting a disproportionate share of the media's attention. That's O.K., we can take it. But occasionally the claims are so egregious we have to set the record straight.

Gary Weitman
Senior Vice-President
Corporate Relations
Tribune Co.

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