In mid-January a friend e-mailed me a piece of advice: “Look up stories about [Sam] Zell barnstorming his new newspapers . . . and look for quotes in which he assures the staffs that cost-cutting is crazy. Save for later use.”

Later turned out to be Wednesday. Zell’s Tribune Company announced it was cutting its workforce by 400 to 500 people, roughly 2 percent — most of the bodies to be lopped from the company’s nine newspapers and corporate staff. About 100 jobs will be lost at the Chicago Tribune.

“Make no mistake. This is not my ultimate strategy for our company,” Zell e-mailed Tribune Company employees. “I believe we can achieve greatness. I have staked my reputation on it.” But for now, “a weak economy and significant declines in advertising volume” are mandating “immediate action.” And Zell warned, “While I will do everything in my power to drive, pull and drag this company forward, I can’t promise we won’t see additional position eliminations in the future, if we continue at our current rate of cash flow decline.”