Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tell Zell, See Ya' in Court

Some current and former LA Times staffers are suing Sam Zell, alleging he diminished the value of the paper to benefit himself through comments and actions since taking over Tribune at the end of 2007.

The news release about the suit calls Zell's takeover of Tribune "a scam," which has put the employee retirement fund at great risk. The suit alleges that Zell has raided the employee pension fund to the tune of $400 million. Read the story published by LA Observed here http://www.laobserved.com/archive/2008/09/extimes_reporters_sue_zel.php.

The suit is not asking for monetary damages, which leads me to believe that the LA Times staffers are angling for a seat on the board of directors of the supposedly employee-owned company.

When Zell bought Tribune for $8 billion, he converted it into an employee-owned company. An employee-owned company does not pay corporate taxes, meaning Zell saves him tens of millions of dollars a year in taxes. What a deal.

Earlier on, Zell mentioned that employees may be represented on the board. But has not made a move to make it happen.

Whatever you may think of the merits of the lawsuit, you have to tip your hat to the folks at the LA Times. They are not passive; they are not meek reporters and editors who are going to go down quietly. You can see the activism and hyper smarts in reporters and editors who think up stuff like this, including hanging a banner from a parking garage that reads: "Zell Hell: Take Back the LA Times."

The staffers have a passion for the LA Times and a fervor they bring to their work that is admirable. Guess that's the difference between a first tier and a fourth tier paper.

Can't imagine that happening here. ...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is not a totally uninformed remark. When I worked for newspapers, the news hole was a giant sponge, and editors were asking for more content all the time.
That said, what in the world are most of the reporters at the Sentinel doing? While LA Times staffers are looking for ways to get Zell's remaining wheels off the track, I have to wonder how the staff at the Orlando paper fills its time. Local news briefs, signed, are the only indications of some names on the staff. In my mind, I imagine writers lined up like the waifs in "Oliver," hoping for just a little more space.
Which they're not getting, so what takes up their days?
And though the front page of the paper promises a world available to anyone's fingertips, stories aren't updated often on the Web, and new stories seldom appear.
And Sentinel blogs, once the shiny new toys of the newsroom, are (with a few exceptions) lying around like the toys the week after Christmas. Thomas, after being coerced into a news blog he didn't want, shifted to an outdoors blog that he said better fitted his interests. But the man hardly ever writes anything on it--and his columns have all the zing of a product produced by a Microsoft "genius" application. So what could he be doing with his spare time?
Except for the arts critics, I can find more fresh product at a Big Lots store than I can on the Sentinel bloggers' individual Web spaces.
There must be lots of time for long lunches. Or maybe it's time that is used for pontificating to the hoi polloi, uninformed masses in the newsroom--those whose salaries show them to be oh so ordinary.
For a struggling paper, there seems to be few in the bow of this boat who are manning the oars. And the more they drag their feet, the more people like me ask why we're paying for their product.
Critical mass is close, I think. Soon they may be pontificating to the other unemployed people who hang out on Orange Avenue.