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Michaels, Feder Play The Feud

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Mar 12, 2010 3:20PM

Not surprisingly, the coverage of WGN's banned-word list has been reduced to a zing-fest between the two primary parties involved: Tribune Co. CEO Randy Michaels and Vocalo columnist Robert Feder. Feder was the first to show the world the list of 119 words and phrases Michaels banned WGN staff and reporters from using on the air (and, more egregiously, the informant-style enforcement system). While the list made the rounds and was discussed - and even ridiculed - no one was as rankled by it as Feder, who called Michaels' list, "petty and insulting micromanaging of subordinates."

Michaels fired back at Feder, saying, “I feel sorry for Bob. If he thinks it’s wrong for the CEO of a content company to focus on content, that could help explain why he is no longer paid to be in media.” And now, Feder has responded to Michaels' response.

Setting aside the false familiarity (no one who knows me calls me “Bob”), Michaels’ response is irksome for two reasons: First, it falsely assumes that I think a CEO shouldn’t “focus on content.” No, I just believe the arrogant and heavy-handed way he went about it was wrong. And second, to say that I am “no longer paid to be in media” is completely and utterly false.

Feder then claims he turned down an offer to write for the Trib's Chicago Now blog network and chose Vocalo instead before launching into a brief defense that online journalism is the future and Michaels is stuck in the past ("old radio showman"). So what had the chance of becoming an interesting discussion about the way a large multi-media corporation is run has now been reduced to the stereotypical argument over "blogs" between someone who doesn't understand online media at all (Michaels) and someone who maybe understands it a little too well (Feder).

So a word to Feder (because you really need to take advice from someone like me, right?): we're fans and we don't want to see you go down this road. Don't let Michaels bait you into the "Blogs aren't the media-Blogs are the wave of the future" argument that the entire Chicago mediashpere has been arguing about (in circles) over the last two years. The chance at delving into the inner-workings of a ginormous multi-media corporation - a corporation that hasn't exactly had the best run the last few years - is a good opportunity that shouldn't be squandered by a pissing contest with someone too worried about his name appearing in a headline alongside "rubber penis." After all, you've been there, you've worked for a company that also saw some financial hardships and declining readerships, so who better than you to show us what does and doesn't work and why? On behalf of all the "hobbyists" on staff here at Chicagoist, you've got the ball Robert, now run with it.