WTF?! Tribune Corp Asks for $13 Million in Bonuses, While 53 Reporters Get the Axe


 Okay, I live in Los Angeles, and our local newspapers suck. We have one major daily, the Los Angeles Times, owned by the Tribune Company, plus area papers like the Daily News which serves the Valley and the Pasadena Star News, and  the weekly papers like the Weekly and the super tiny Independent chain which weekly publishes a list of crimes culled from the police blotter for each of the five communities it serves with its eight-page rag.

But the once groundbreaking LA Weekly moved west to Culver City, a separate municipality and thus not Los Angeles proper, and along the way lost much of its verve and flavor–and staff. LA City Beat, another weekly has folded.

The once great  LA Times is dying, dying, dying as an actual paper, and it’s so heartbreaking. Its parent company Tribune filed for bankruptcy. The paper has  shrunk, killing the book section and the local news is folded into the main section.  And raised the newsstand price!   Okay, they did win a Pulitzer for the wildfires coverage, and columnist Steve Lopez transformed his essays into a book and an upcoming movie called The Soloist starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey, Jr. But the paper still sucks.

Now comes this utterly insane bit of news: Tribune asked U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware to authorize  bonus payments would amount to about $13 million for 693 managers (over $19,000 per person if averaged out). Chief Executive Sam Zell and nine other of Tribune’s top executives would not be eligible for the bonuses.   Tribune’s rationale:

These payments are vitally necessary to reward participants for their extraordinary contributions during an exceptionally difficult year.

Those "contributions" Tribune said could generate about $425 million in annualized cashflow. Um, those contributions include firing 2,400 employees, shrinking news coverage, gutting sections…And "could" is the operative word in the sentence. Maybe defer the bonuses, wait and see if that annualized cash flow becomes a reality and then give  bigger bonuses?

Meanwhile Chicago Tribune, the company’s hometown paper, announced it would fire 53 news staffers–about 11 percent of its newsroom–to save money and refocus its efforts on local news coverage! That’s how those managers are getting their bonuses! 

In all fairness, the Tribune Company also asked the bankruptcy court to release $2.5 million in severance payments to 70 employees fired last year before the bankruptcy firing. 

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Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.