WTF?! Tribune Corp Asks for $13 Million in Bonuses, While 53 Reporters Get the Axe


 Okay, I live in Los Angeles, and our local newspapers suck. We have one major daily, the Los Angeles Times, owned by the Tribune Company, plus area papers like the Daily News which serves the Valley and the Pasadena Star News, and  the weekly papers like the Weekly and the super tiny Independent chain which weekly publishes a list of crimes culled from the police blotter for each of the five communities it serves with its eight-page rag.

But the once groundbreaking LA Weekly moved west to Culver City, a separate municipality and thus not Los Angeles proper, and along the way lost much of its verve and flavor–and staff. LA City Beat, another weekly has folded.

The once great  LA Times is dying, dying, dying as an actual paper, and it’s so heartbreaking. Its parent company Tribune filed for bankruptcy. The paper has  shrunk, killing the book section and the local news is folded into the main section.  And raised the newsstand price!   Okay, they did win a Pulitzer for the wildfires coverage, and columnist Steve Lopez transformed his essays into a book and an upcoming movie called The Soloist starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr. But the paper still sucks.

Now comes this utterly insane bit of news: Tribune asked U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware to authorize  bonus payments would amount to about $13 million for 693 managers (over $19,000 per person if averaged out). Chief Executive Sam Zell and nine other of Tribune’s top executives would not be eligible for the bonuses.   Tribune’s rationale:

These payments are vitally necessary to reward participants for their extraordinary contributions during an exceptionally difficult year.

Those "contributions" Tribune said could generate about $425 million in annualized cashflow. Um, those contributions include firing 2,400 employees, shrinking news coverage, gutting sections…And "could" is the operative word in the sentence. Maybe defer the bonuses, wait and see if that annualized cash flow becomes a reality and then give  bigger bonuses?

Meanwhile Chicago Tribune, the company’s hometown paper, announced it would fire 53 news staffers–about 11 percent of its newsroom–to save money and refocus its efforts on local news coverage! That’s how those managers are getting their bonuses! 

In all fairness, the Tribune Company also asked the bankruptcy court to release $2.5 million in severance payments to 70 employees fired last year before the bankruptcy firing. 

20 Responses to "WTF?! Tribune Corp Asks for $13 Million in Bonuses, While 53 Reporters Get the Axe"
Badwater | Thursday April 23, 2009 09:05 am 1

Sam Zell has ruined the LA Times.

punaise | Thursday April 23, 2009 09:06 am 2

next-tier down SF Chronicle is living on borrowed time, too.

Beerfart Liberal | Thursday April 23, 2009 09:10 am 3

Tribune bought the Orlando Sentinel and Zell came down to meet with all the employees and kinda boost morale. Told a photographer to go fuck himself. Nice.


this is an outrage.

i should have a link

Beerfart Liberal | Thursday April 23, 2009 09:14 am 4

here it is:

Zell was in town to “rally” the troops Jan. 31. Looking like a drunk hobo, Zell made sure everyone in the room knew that this bullshit about afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted was no way to run a damn newspaper. Investigative journalism wasn’t putting money in his pocket. The Sentinel, boomed this publishing scion who’s newspaper experience includes buying up real estate, needs to write stories that readers want to read. When photographer Sara Fajardo had the temerity to suggest that readers want stories about puppies, Zell popped a gasket and spouted some craziness about journalistic arrogance. Then he added a nice “fuck you” at the end.…..?perm=1064

Beerfart Liberal | Thursday April 23, 2009 09:15 am 5

No. HERE it is:…..?perm=1064

Beerfart Liberal | Thursday April 23, 2009 09:19 am 6

I’m sorry he didn’t tell a guy to fuck himself. it was a woman. and he just said ‘fuck you.” apologies to all


NMRon | Thursday April 23, 2009 09:23 am 7

How many salaries is $13 Million. I am sick to death of some smarmy asshole ruining the lives of hundreds and thousands of people then patting themselves on the back and commemorating what a good job they’ve done by giving each other shitloads of money. And saying they ‘earned’ it. Yeah, earned it . . . Like a Somali pirate. But that’s unfair to pirates, after the way Somalia’s been screwed over, a Somali pirate’s got more of an excuse to steal than these Corporate scumbags do.

citizensue | Thursday April 23, 2009 09:24 am 8

Sorry for the OT- Breaking- John McCain has just released a statement calling a possible Obama pursuit of Torture Prosecutions a “WITCH HUNT”.
So it begins.

brendanscalling | Thursday April 23, 2009 09:30 am 9

Philly’s public radio station, WHYY did the same thing today: they fired 17 staffers, but didn’t cut executive salaries:

With a surprise announcement, WHYY laid off 16 full-time workers and one part-timer yesterday as part of what the organization characterized as “an employee restructuring plan” designed to keep the budget balanced while WHYY moves “in new directions.”

The move, encompassing 8 percent of WHYY’s staff, should trim about $1.2 million in salary and benefits, about 4 percent of the station’s budget, said WHYY spokesman Art Ellis….

Marrazzo’s compensation, including $280,000 in deferred compensation he is scheduled to get this year if he meets performance goals, totaled $740,090 for the year ending June 30, 2007, the most recent tax filing to be made public – or 62 percent of the amount to be saved by the 17 layoffs.

Staffers reported that at the meeting, Danny Miller, executive producer of Fresh Air, WHYY-FM’s flagship program, asked Marrazzo if executive salary cuts were considered as a way to save jobs and that Miller himself volunteered to take a cut if it could save staff.

Marrazzo said that was not an option, people at the meeting said. The CEO told The Inquirer in February that a cut in his compensation would be on the table if the station had economic troubles.

runfastandwin | Thursday April 23, 2009 09:31 am 10

I hope and pray the LA Times gets sold to someone who will make something of it. It has been pretty worthless for a couple decades now. I mean when’s the last time they scooped anything? They could have been the voice of reason over the last eight years, the community is certainly ready to support a liberal muckraking newspaper, but chose instead to go along with the charade.

i4u2bi | Thursday April 23, 2009 09:31 am 11

Yes we can…I can’t remember just what I thought that meant. Change is taking the long way around.

jayt | Thursday April 23, 2009 09:35 am 12

But the once groundbreaking LA Weekly….along the way lost much of its verve and flavor–and staff.

That sucks.

The LA Weekly was the first place I ever read the phrase “I wouldn’t piss on him to put him out if he was on fire.”

It was in an album review.

Lisa Derrick | Thursday April 23, 2009 09:49 am 13

$13.3 million would provide 53 reporters with over $25K a year. Not a princely sum, but it could in fact keep the majority of jobs in place or possible even be a nice pool of freelancer funds (a standard op is freelance out as much as work as possible and thus save health insurance costs plus SS contributions. Yeah, it sucks, but most writers would rather make $1000 a week freelancing than zilch…).

As a native Angeleno, I am heartbroken and ashamed at our lack print media. However, the LA Times, despite not having a book section anymore, stil sponsors the Time Festival of books, and their book reporter and blogger Caroline Kellogg did great work on the recent Amazon “glitch” story.

jayt | Thursday April 23, 2009 09:49 am 14
In response to citizensue @ 8

at least the hunt for the bitches “witches” shouldn’t be all that tough…

ratfood | Thursday April 23, 2009 09:51 am 15

Here is a link to a list of Tribune corporate assets. They purportedly employ 21,500 people, probably none of whom feel particularly secure in their job.

SouthernDragon | Thursday April 23, 2009 09:58 am 16
In response to Lisa Derrick @ 13

Some enterprising young soul needs to reincarnate the LA Free Press, complete with Ron Cobb editorial cartoons.

SouthernDragon | Thursday April 23, 2009 10:07 am 17

Zell is an rich old white man who thought newspapers might be a nice hobby while at the same time providing a hefty return on his “investment.” Strip and flip only works when somebody wants to buy the company after it’s stripped. Think positively Sam, at least the taxes you probably don’t pay now will go down with the losses.

Lisa Derrick | Thursday April 23, 2009 10:10 am 18

KiwiJackson | Thursday April 23, 2009 10:20 am 19

I knew when they laid off my neighbor columnist Bob Jones (many years ago now) then got rid of Robert Scheer they were on the downslide to hell. It’s accelerating now though. Another old friend Jim Robinson came here to LA from the Toronto Globe and Mail. He had offers from both the Times and the Long Beach Press Telegram to work on the business pages. Took the Press Telegram offer over the Times because he could see even then the handwriting on their wall. Jim retired as the main editor of the LBPT not long back.

TMak | Friday April 24, 2009 03:18 pm 20

ATTN: Lisa Derrick; You made a good point— but might want to check your math.

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