Tribune's 'Fun' Creative Environment Seems Like 'Mad' Throwback


The Tribune Company has enough problems, what with its troubling billions in debt. Who knows if it had some retro-personality issues as well -- looking to create a "Mad Men"-like 1960s environment?

Reports of inappropriate activities undertaken by senior Tribune management give the company a bad appearance. But Randy Michaels, chief executive officer of the company, and subject of some of these accusations in a New York Times story, says all this is being misconstrued. He reportedly says: "As you know, it is our intention to create a fun, nonlinear creative environment. I am tremendously proud of the results of that creative culture."



Nonlinear? Business strategies not connected in a straight line, bouncing around indiscriminately with some hopeful good results -- all with lottery odds attached?

Media companies are in duress these days. And those with big newspaper assets have bigger chips on their shoulders, considering continued poor advertising revenues. How many times can another new team of managers look to give a big half-time speech to rally the team?

Tribune's television stations, like most TV stations, aren't in a much better position -- though over the last year and half, local TV advertising revenues have stormed back from those dreadful 2009 amounts, up 20% to 30% and more.

But this shouldn't give anyone a false sense of security or a longing to return to the good old days. The New York Times story say some Tribune Company properties have a "frat house'" mentality. No doubt, in the old days -- the 60s, the 70s, the early 80s -- TV stations and networks, as well as some advertising agencies (see "Mad Men") had that clubby misogynous atmosphere that never got reported.

In part, I can understand the current new creative push. Remind media workers they are still working in a great business -- whether it's newspaper reportage, TV journalism, TV production, or other areas. Tell them to work hard and the benefits will arrive. Work hard and, I'm guessing, play hard.

But the old days of that creative mindset allowed for big failure with less consequence. Newspapers and TV stations were still dominant and wildly profitable.

Tribune managers want to go back to that creative spirit in business and journalism. Problem is, they don't have any room for error. Instead, much of what shows is bad form.

3 comments about "Tribune's 'Fun' Creative Environment Seems Like 'Mad' Throwback".
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  1. Richard Brayer from Car-X, October 14, 2010 at 2:16 p.m.

    Bad form, indeed especially when you should be humbled due to the bankruptcy

    These are senior level people- not 25 year olds

    that should worry anyone

  2. Marla Goldstein from Around The Bend Media, October 14, 2010 at 8:33 p.m.

    What they did was to rewrite the employee manual to say that sexual harassment isn't a problem because, according to management, it no longer exists. You can't contravene a law by saying the law doesn't apply because I say so.

    Lee Abrams' 'apology' was insincere on its face. "I'm sorry that you were offended." Not I'm sorry for what I did, but I'm sorry that you didn't like what I did. Big difference, don't you think?

  3. Jerry Foster from Energraphics, October 15, 2010 at 3:30 a.m.

    Good point made, but please let's not see American males accept radical feminist words like "misogynistic" to describe frat boy behavior. One incident I heard of at the Tribune was "disrespectful to the women being spoken of" and behavior seriously "unbecoming of a gentleman". That's better phraseology.

    The government needs to distance itself, however. Many sexual harassment laws are wrong and need to be overturned. Corporations can decide their own cultures.

    When any American believes a law violates their natural law rights, such as free speech, they can flout a law and dare the Supreme Court to crush them or (more likely) overturn the law.

    A ton of feminist laws are now being flouted and nobody is trying to enforce them for fear that they won't hold up in court. Look at the way Eliot Spitzer was never charged for the anti-john law he signed himself and violated himself. He and the would-be prosecutors knew that he had every right to pay someone to go to his hotel room (right of assembly is a major part of the Bill of Rights and, no, it doesn't apply only to forming militias despite the very poorly written wording in the Constitution).

    Major Tribune shareholders, of course, should be furious at the frat boy antics and deal with that themselves.

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