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Tribune Company Sacrifices a Few for ... a Few

By Timmy Watson in News on Oct 7, 2006 6:20PM

2006_07_10_TribuneTower.jpgScott C. Smith, Tribune Co.’s president of publishing, has been quite the firecracker this week. Los Angeles Times publisher Jeffrey Johnson refused Smith’s orders to eliminate as many as 100 newsroom positions; Smith flew to LA on Thursday and forced Johnson’s resignation (some would call that being fired). The Los Angeles Times, along with 10 other papers including the Chicago Tribune, are owned by the Tribune Co. Oh, they also own 23 TV stations and the Cubs.

Smith and the Tribune Co. have been under increasing pressure by shareholders to do something about the shrinking stock price. There is a plan already in the works to sell $500 million in small newspapers and broadcast properties, and there has been talk of selling some of the larger units, including the Los Angeles Times. Three businessmen in LA are rumored to have interest in the company, and the paper being run locally could fair better for the newsroom as far as staff cuts go. Smith stomped on that this week saying, “individual business units are not for sale at this time.”

The Tribune Co. has installed David Hiller, who was the publisher of the Chicago Tribune, as Johnson’s replacement at the LA Times.

The LA Times staff have signed a petition expressing support for the editor, Dean Baquet, who also fought against the staff cuts. The petition, which stated, “We ask that our new publisher, David Hiller, and the management of the Tribune Co. carefully consider and approve Dean’s plans for strategic investments in the newspaper and its website that will expand revenues, enhance Los Angeles Times journalism and ensure prosperous future for the company and its largest newspaper,” is not only a plea to keep an editor they trust, but a statement on the Tribune Co.’s strategy for raising profits -- instead of cutting costs, why doesn’t the company embrace and create innovation?