Sigh. Phil Rosenthal (emphasis mine):

“The Chicago Tribune today reduced its newsroom staff, a response to the economic downturn and changes in the media business model.”

Can you figure out what’s missing here? See Athenae for the answer.

I’m well aware that it’s declassé to publicly draw knives on management, and that a show of disloyalty can make it hard to find a new job when your ride’s here, and I’m sympathetic to people who err on the side of caution (on the side of being able to feed yourself, specifically). But the third factor in TribCo’s recent cutbacks, the truly epic amounts of debt Sam Zell took out on the backs of the employee “owners” – which Zell himself has admitted, if dickishly and halfheartedly, was a mistake – seems so obvious here as to not only warrant mentioning but to be entirely safe to do so.

I know it’s just a sentence, but those are the building blocks of journalism.

Update: Crain’s is doing some good work, and mentions the elephant in the room: “The company is profitable, court filings show, generating more than $50 million in cash flow in February alone. But it sought bankruptcy protection because it wasn’t able to keep up with payments on debt taken on in CEO Sam Zell’s leveraged buyout of the company the previous year.”

The reason I gripe about Rosenthal’s boilerplate sentence is this: the more you repeat generalities about the media business, the more they become “true,” which lets Zell and his ilk off the hook.

My condolences to those laid off – I interned at the Trib a few years ago, and people I liked and respected have been victims – as well as to those who remain: watching your colleagues fall around you is sore difficult, and I haven’t figured out when or if the suvivor’s guilt goes away.

NB: The only specific name I’ve heard is art critic Alan Artner [not confirmed; see Miner and Crain’s for updated lists], via the Twitter feed of Emily Nunn, herself a victim of cutbacks not too long ago. She rebounded quickly with a blog, Cook the Wolf, and I hope her colleagues do the same, at least until we in the journalism community get some stuff figured out.