The following article appears in the Columbia Journalism Review by an un-named writer.
In the military you shut up and follow orders; otherwise, things fall apart. Still, there can come a point when the strategy is a demonstrable loser. Then, sometimes, it is the generals who must go, or maybe the secretary of defense.
That’s true in corporations, too. When the Tribune Company orders manpower cuts, publishers and editors either follow through or hit the road. That’s the way it works. Yet there can come a Rumsfeld moment, and Tribune has reached it. That’s why we’d like to see the company sell itself out of the newspaper business.
Good editors will cut costs when it is part of a sensible business plan. But in time Tribune appeared to be simply harvesting the assets of its properties. Newsday and others were picked nearly clean and Tribune began turning to L.A. again this fall. To Jeffrey Johnson and Dean Baquet, the former publisher and former editor of the Los Angeles Times, Tribune must have sounded like the motorcycle thugs in Hunter Thompson’s first book, Hell’s Angels. In Thompson’s telling, the Angels come up to you in a bar and say, Give me a cigarette. Then: Give me another cigarette. Then: Give me the pack. Give me your shirt. At some point you realize you might as well fight.
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