Tribune unplugged

August 26, 2008

mainframe.JPGWhat will the newspaper of the 21st century look like? Can Tribune cut its way to growth?

What can possibly be done to cheat the death spiral its papers and those of the industry faces?

Tribune COO Randy Michaels offered one solution during its latest call with lenders:

“We went around to see what we could unplug. It turns out we were still maintaining the 1998 mainframe from Times Mirror. Nothing goes into it. Nothing goes out of it. And then we unplugged it and nothing stopped. So we’ve stopped the service contract, stopped the maintenance. We’ve actually disconnected about half of the equipment on the eighth floor. We have surplus air conditioning. While that may not be material, it represents the kind of opportunity that exists here. We’re busy changing the culture to save money.”

In other words, people don’t kill newspapers. Machines kill newspapers.

But not quite. People are to be blamed as well, Michaels suggested in the same breath, especially congregations of them:

“I realized that in the first few months here, I was always busy, but not getting a lot done … Twelve people would show up in the office. We had a culture of meetings. I’m sure they were informative and helpful. Everyone could stay busy going to meetings. We’re actively campaigning against meetings if something could be handled by a conversation in the hall or a quick email. We’re having a lot fewer meetings and getting more done.”

(Photo: / Not the actual mainframe Tribune’s cost cutters unplugged.)

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