Veteran hoops scribe Mark Heisler was laid off by the Los Angeles Times earlier this summer after more than 3 decades at the newspaper. Taking a long look back at his Times tenure, and providing a somewhat chilling overview of the modern media landscape, Heisler provides Truthdig with a memory or 2 of how the paper’s culture changed after Sam Zell took over the Tribune Company ;
Neither I, nor anyone, could tune out Zell’s “chief innovation officer” Lee Abrams (above), whose success in radio seemed life-defining to him, or mind-altering, leaving him capable of announcing upon arrival:
“While my background is steeped in ‘Rock n Roll,’ I strongly believe that News and Information is the new Rock n Roll. …
“The Tribune has the choice of doing to News/Information/Entertainment what Rock n Roll did to music … to be the Ray Charles, Dylans, Beatles and U2s of the Information age … or have someone else figure it out, or worse, let these American institutions disappear into irrelevancy.”
Abrams peppered everyone in the chain with memos full of more insights like this one, which somehow ignored the fact that two of his four “American institutions” weren’t American, and thundering proclamations (“You are either WITH the revolution or AGAINST it”), even after a WAVE OF MOCKERY of his use of caps, which, THE PROFESSIONAL WRITERS IN HIS EMPLOY assumed he did to press points IN THE ABSENCE OF ANY KNOWLEDGE OF THE BUSINESS.
If eye rolls were debilitating, we might never have published again, but nothing stopped Abrams from leaving his mark in newspaper history in the role of the fabled emperor, parading proudly in the breeze, dressed only in his nonexistent new clothes.
I didn’t read the memos, which were dismaying, not to mention an open invitation to tell him where to put his revolution if you didn’t catch yourself before hitting “reply.”
I should note I have signed a termination agreement, stipulating I won’t “disparage” or “denigrate” Tribune. Since interpretations can vary, even if they hadn’t stuck in the words “in any way,” I thought it only prudent to wait for my severance check before writing this.