If Chicago doesn’t get the Olympic Games, life here will go on as before. If the changes now under way at the Tribune vastly diminish it as a daily newspaper, life won’t. Bread and circuses are fine, but the public is better served by a civic conscience (however flawed it may be). This principle might be understood better in Los Angeles than here.
Tuesday night a reception was held in the LA Times building for Jim Newton, the departing editor of that paper’s editorial page. Told to slash his staff, Newton decided to quit instead. Attending the reception, according to laobserved.com, were the present mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, former mayor Richard Riordan, Sheriff Lee Baca, and local billionaire Eli Broad, who’d hoped to buy the Times before the entire Tribune Company was taken over last year by Sam Zell.
Do you think Mayor Daley would show up to say good-bye to Bruce Dold, who runs the Tribune‘s editorial page? More to the point, what dignitaries would attend a farewell party for reporter Maury Possley, who deserves thanks from a grateful city?
As lists are being drawn up of the dozens of Tribune editorial employees who will soon be tossed over the side to lighten the payroll, Possley has decided to leave voluntarily. This costs the city a terrific investigative reporter who has specialized in prosecutorial misconduct. In a note to his colleagues Monday, Possley wrote that he’ll “never forget those moments standing outside a prison and watching inmates go free, knowing that our reporting played some role in exposing their wrongful convictions and securing their freedom. For the past decade, I have had the privilege to work with the since-departed Ken Armstrong and my seemingly constant companion, Steve Mills, on some of the most important journalism in our country.”
Possley went on, “It just doesn’t seem possible that less than two months ago, some of us gathered at Columbia University for the Pulitzer luncheon with [editor Ann Marie Lipinski] to celebrate our prize for investigative reporting. I understand that there are no guarantees in life — that God laughs when we say we have plans — nevertheless, how stunning it is to see the dismantling of our newspaper in such a short time.”
(The entire note and other Tribune memos are posted here on Jim Romenesko’s forum.)
Dismantled? Some would say “differently mantled.”
The new editor, Gerould Kern, seems fluent in both languages. In a staff memo of his own (it’s embedded in the Lee Abrams blog post that follows Possley’s farewell note at the above link), Kern declares:
“Courageous public service, credibility, integrity, fairness and accuracy form the foundation of this newspaper. We will stand watch over our country, our city and our communities because this is our special duty and because they demand it of us. You have made this our hallmark.”
Kern then segues effortlessly into a tongue that few old-fashioned journalists have begun to master. He continues: “But the economics that have supported our newspaper for decades are in disarray. I do not have to tell you how significantly this affects the newsroom. Still, amid the dislocation and uncertainty lies an opportunity we can seize. We can transform into a news organization that is ideally suited for a new century defined by breathtaking technological innovation and a voracious appetite for specialized information delivered over multiple digital and print channels.”
No matter how voracious the new Tribune‘s appetite for “specialized information delivered over multiple digital and print channels” turns out to be, I doubt the state’s attorney’s office will find the new Tribune more of a load than having Possley around.