Tribune CEO Sam Zell famously cursed one of his journalists earlier this year when asked whether refocusing the company would undermine serious journalism. He called such thinking "classic... journalistic arrogance." But now Zell is struggling to service $12.8 billion in debt amid a weak economy, and he's planning what sounds like mass layoffs and newsprint reductions to meet the challenge. The cuts would fall hardest on the journalists who produce the least output — just the sort of emphasis on quantity over quality once-supportive reporters and editors at the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Orlando Sentinel are likely to abhor:
Mr. Michaels said that, after measuring journalists' output, "when you get into the individuals, you find out that you can eliminate a fair number of people while eliminating not very much content." He added that he understood that some reporting jobs naturally produce less output than others.
He said that The Los Angeles Times produced 51 pages of news for each journalist there, while the figure for two other Tribune papers, The Baltimore Sun and The Hartford Courant, is more than 300 pages.
Zell's ribald personality must seem a lot less charming to his charges now that he's wielding a large, bloody axe.