Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial cartoonist Dave Horsey leveled his ink and blog at the new Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell calling him “the most vulgar embodiment of a pervasive bean counter mentality that is threatening the best of American journalism.” From his column on his blog Dave warned that under a Zell leadership the Tribune Co. would sacrifice the traditional and most basic journalistic responsibilities for the sake of the bottom line.
What does Zell know about journalism? No more than any other billionaire real estate mogul. But that hasn’t stopped him from telling off journalists at some of the country’s best newspapers — the Chicago Tribune, Newsday, the Hartford Courant, the Baltimore Sun and, finest of all, the Los Angeles Times. Zell has told these new employees of his that they are practitioners of an arrogant kind of journalism that doesn’t give readers what they want and fails to make increasing company profits a key objective of news gathering.
As I detailed in my cartoon, Zell has delivered his message on a grand tour of his properties, dropping F-bombs all along the way. Worse than his crude language, though, is his vision of the future of journalism. Apparently, foreign coverage and reporting from Washington, D.C., will be discounted. Stories that seek to protect the public interest by tackling tough, important subjects will be frowned upon, unless they can somehow be shown to enhance the bottom line.
In an accompanying cartoon, Dave depicts and quotes Zell as he toured various newspapers throughout his chain telling reporters that readers don’t like foreign news “it’s just something journalists like to do” and he’s willing to allow ads for strip clubs to run in the L.A. Times because, “it’s un-American not to like to (bleep)!”
As to the cartoon and column’s reaction, Dave Astor contacted Tribune Media Syndicate VP for News and Features John Twohey who said that the cartoon was provocative but would not place his relationship with TMS in danger. Horsey, who had been out of the office doing election coverage and didn’t know how the cartoon was being received by Zell or his readers.