My thanks to reader Pelham for his comment posting a link to a recent staff memo by Joycelyn Winnecke, a Tribune associate editor.
Some memo. I like to laugh at the memos that Tribune Company blue-sky impresario Lee Abrams cranks out, but better ten of his than one of hers. Winnecke’s memo made me think of the Robert Fulghum essay, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” Her maxims might have made a deep impression on a younger audience:
“You know the Tribune Co. values already: Keep your word. Collaborate. No surprises. Compete. Play fair . . .”
But Winnecke’s purpose is not to gently impart wisdom. It’s to terrorize. She goes on to announce editorial’s “newly minted goals” and to let the staff know “you will be rated based on specific actions you take to advance them.”
The newspaper business has always looked attractive to people who don’t play well with others. From time to time you might be screamed at, but no one marches you down the hall in a straight line, and no one makes you memorize lists.
Winnecke gives the staff a list. 1. Digital first. 2. Deliver on mission. 3. Innovation and customer focus. 4. Urgency.
And if your skin is beginning to crawl she sees to it you remember, “Another new companywide assessment category is Attitude.”
Then she explains the new grading system. The old system led to “grade inflation” and the Tribune can’t have that. So here’s the new one: “4–Exceeds expectations; 3-Achieves goals, on target; 2-Needs Improvement; 1-Unsatisfactory.”
Managerial reviews in February; staff reviews in July. “We view the new goals and process as necessary to help move us toward the consistently high-performance culture we need in this quickly changing environment.”
I don’t have to work at the Tribune to know how journalists there felt as they read this. Winnecke’s memo is an offense to their self-regard as grownups.