Tim Rutten, long-time Los Angeles Times journalist, concludes in his last 'Regarding Media' column that the sale that "transformed the Tribune Co. from a publicly traded corporation into a private, nonprofit organization owned by its employees, but run by billionaire investor Sam Zell, brought a disastrous journalistic experiment to an ignominious close", and —
The era of corporate accumulation has been an unmitigated disaster for American journalism. Money has flowed like a fiscal Mississippi into the pockets of investors and fund managers, draining one newspaper and TV station after another of the resources necessary to serve their communities' common good. Nearly every American newspaper and local television station sucked into one of the chains -- from the largest to the smallest -- during that period is today a lesser journalistic entity of less real service to its audience than when it was acquired.Tribune employees have been forced to assume a huge risk — after all, they weren't actually invited to be owners, right? — but now, perhaps with Zell at the helm, The Deal may prove to be "a great [long-term] financial opportunity" for the employees who have invested their dedication, time and talent.
That's what makes Sam Zell's daring purchase of Tribune not only a great financial opportunity but also a historic opportunity for American journalism -- a chance to demonstrate that private ownership can reestablish the link between good business and good journalism that initially was forged by familial proprietors.