“A more gentlemanly version of the Chicago Tribune”

colonel tribuneIf anything demonstrates the stark contrast between the buttoned-up Tribune Co of yore versus the radio jockeys -led Tribune Co of now, it’s the illustration that greets readers  on the Chicago Tribune web site’s error page.

If you’re expecting  “a former waitress at Knockers — the place for hot racks and cold brews,” as a Sam Zell-led Tribune press release once trumpeted a new hire,  you will be disappointed.

Instead, visitors are welcomed by one Colonel Tribune pictured on the left. He’s even on Facebook and describes himself as the following,  ”Colonel Tribune is a man about town in Chicago. He’s also a more gentlemanly version of the Chicago Tribune.”

(Photo: Chicago Tribune)

The future of newspapers via Sam Zell

Sam Zell popped over to CNBC’s Squawk Box on Tuesday to chat about real estate and investment opportunities in the U.S. and abroad. This being MediaFile, we were most interested in what Zell had to say about Tribune Co., the company that he helms and that is currently  slogging its way through a bankruptcy with warring creditors.

Zell didn’t reveal a whole lot when asked about the Chapter 11 process but he did share his thoughts on the future of newspapers and that future involves… PDFs! Zell is pretty sweet on the idea that home delivery will just go away something the  Detroit Free Press and Detroit News semi-embraced more than a year ago.  Instead newspaper subscribers will be able to get electronic versions of the newspapers.

Here’s Zell on what he believes is in store for newspapers:  ”Going forward it’s going to require all kinds of different approaches, including, probably the most significant,  the elimination of home delivery and the replacement of it with PDFs. The iPad  is the real example of almost replicating a newspaper on an instrument. I think that is only the beginning of how that is all going to evolve.”

Media, tech moguls meet in New York (You are NOT invited)

Media and technology executives are meeting Wednesday and Thursday in New York City at a conference hosted by private equity firm Quadrangle. Note the word private.

When they meet at the Plaza, they will talk about a ton of different things that their customers, their investors and other readers want to know. I have to apologize for them because they’re not letting in any riff-raff. And that includes reporters who get paid to spend all day figuring out how these people decide what kind of entertainment you want, what kind of technology you pay them for and what deals they pursue with the money that you give them when you buy their stock. This event always excludes press, but that’s no reason not to highlight what you probably are missing because of this. After all, who wants to wait for the 8-K filing?

Some press will be allowed, but it will be an assortment of celebrity journalists who will moderate panels and, according to Peter Kafka, author of “MediaMemo” at News Corp’s AllThingsD blog, will not write about the event (I’m talking about Maria Bartiromo and David Faber of CNBC, The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta, etc).

Did *anyone* like the Los Angeles Times ads?

You have to hand it to Sam Zell and his band of outsiders at bankrupt media company Tribune Co. They are going to remake the newspaper business if it kills them.

The gang got broiled for a front-page ad that the Los Angeles Times ran last week that looked like an article. After that outcry, the Tribune-owned paper did it again, this time with another an ad supplement for Paramount’s movie, “The Soloist.” That one includes an interview with Steve Lopez, the Times columnist who wrote the book that became the movie. The ad also ran under the LA Times’s own banner.

As it turns out, nearly everyone who cares enough to talk about these ads in public despises them. You could have said that LA Times employees were just kvetching when they circulated a petition voicing their opposition to the ads — broke down and dispirited by bankruptcy, and repeated waves of layoffs, they stuck to the old line that there needs to be a distinction between ads and editorial copy for various ethical reasons.

Murdoch’s paper love: LA Times next?

Rumors of Rupert Murdoch’s interest in buying The New York Times have been swirling for ages, and maybe the media mogul would have snapped up the venerable paper by now were it not for the Sulzbergers.

But there’s always a consolation prize, and this one’s from the West Coast. Variety writes that Murdoch could be interested in buying The Los Angeles Times and has been talking “fervently” about making a play for the paper.

And that would surely be an easier purchase to pull off, given that LA Times’ owner Tribune is in the middle of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Maybe Sam Zell, who owns Tribune, would be more willing to sell the paper to a fellow mogul than the Sulzbergers.

All eyes on Goldman — the conference, that is

goldman.jpgWe’ll be paying close attention to Goldman Sachs today for reasons other than the wrenching financial crisis. Our interest relates to the investment bank’s Communacopia conference, an annual meeting of some top media players.

Of course, it’s impossible to escape Wall Street’s woes, even at a media conference. After all, there are questions about the ripple effect on the economy — and that includes the advertising business, the bread and butter of media.

We spoke to a number of experts and the consensus was that while financial services make up just 6 percent of advertising spending in the United States, which is no small sum, the bigger issue is the influence that the crisis has on confidence throughout Corporate America. Watching this week’s turmoil, will corporations be as free with spending?

Sam Zell: You’re fired! Now let’s move on…

Tribune Co is making good on its promise to use its own reporters to break news about Tribune. It’s not the company’s fault if that news is depressing.

Chief Executive Sam Zell held a conference call with reporters at its papers on Tuesday, prompting a profusion of press coverage in Tribune-owned publications on Wednesday. Some of the most interesting excerpts showed up in The Hartford Courant:

Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell Tuesday defended his decision to order large cuts at newspapers across the chain, including The Courant, saying that no one could have predicted the dramatic drop in advertising revenue that followed his takeover of the company seven months ago.

Who’s Watching Steve Jobs?

Apple Corporation CEO Steve Jobs speaks during his keynote speech at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, California

If Steve Jobs’ well-being is somehow symbiotic with Apple Inc’s well-being, shouldn’t there be an application for tracking his whereabouts?

Someone must have a lucrative business plan for creating an “EDtv” or “The Truman Show” around the guru of the iPod Mac and iPhone.

Perhaps, this exclusive content could be piped to all Apple TV set-top boxes — for a fee. At the very least, how about a desktop widget that shows where in the world Steve Jobs is.

Talking bylines with new Chicago Tribune editor

gerould-kern.jpgTribune Co is keeping media reporters and headline writers busy these days with news of how the company is trying to turn around its newspaper business and stay afloat under billions of dollars in debt – all while creating a culture that, as Chicago real estate tycoon and newly minted press baron Sam Zell says, does not take itself too seriously.

That is growing more difficult as the company embarks on another round of job cuts at its papers, sparking fear and loathing among employees, and launches an ambitious plan to redo the papers’ sizes and looks. Tribune also set journalism types’ tongues a-wagging with its plan to review reporter productivity as a possible condition for staying on board. That might not sound so controversial, except that many people have interpreted that as saying it’s not about the quality of your stories, it’s about the quantity.

Gerould Kern, Tribune’s vice president of editorial and the successor to departing Chicago Tribune editor Ann Marie Lipinski, addressed some of these topics in a phone interview with Reuters.

More Tribune layoffs coming? Not yet.

When we saw a memo hit the blogs this week saying that more Tribune layoffs could be coming, we put the reporting machinery into motion — only to find out that apparently it’s not true.

While future layoffs are perhaps inevitable, the latest memo authored by Chief Executive Sam Zell turned out to not be “latest” at all.

The subject line, which you can see at the Los Angeles Times Pressmens 20 Year Club, says “Reducing staff,” always a promising sign of news. Then there was this: