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New Tribune owner Zell said what every journalist needs to hear, f-bomb and all 2/7/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Zell.

Readers of my blog know I believe that the Old Media culture is a toxin that is likely to prevent many news outlets from surviving. Overhyped and false claims of objectivity, truth-delivery, and verification have created a rift with the public. This prevents them from forming trusted personal bonds with their audiences, key to success in New Media.

While earlier this week I saluted new Tribune owner Sam Zell for reminding his papers that they are businesses that must please their customers, the transcript and video below reveal that he, in fact, stared Old Media culture in the face and courageously (and vulgarly) confronted it.

    Old Media Journalist (OMJ): I hear you guys talking a lot about revenue and the bottom line and all that, but I’m a journalist. I kind of want to know what your viewpoints are on journalism and the role it plays in the community, because we’re not the Pennysaver, we’re a newspaper.

    Zell: My attitude on journalism is very simple. I want to make enough money so I can afford you. It’s really that simple, OK? You need to, in effect, help me by being a journalist that focuses on what our readers want, and therefore generates more revenue. We understand unequivocally that the heart and soul of this business is the editorial side of the business. That’s our content. But if we don’t have the revenue, it doesn’t really matter.

    OMJ: But what readers want are puppy dogs, and, I mean, we also need to inform the community, not just —

    Zell: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I can’t, you know, you’re giving me the classic, what I would call, journalistic arrogance — deciding that puppies don’t count. I don’t know anything about puppies. What I’m interested in is, how can we generate additional interest in our product and additional revenue, so we can make our product better and better. And hopefully we get to the point where our revenue is so significant that we can do puppies and Iraq. OK? [OMJ turns her back, shakes her head] F*** you.

Never have more important, succinct, and eloquent words been spoken to Old Media journalists. Hopefully, for their own good, he now has their attention.


1. Aldi - 2/8/08

How Old Media would cover that story:


2. Ben Calmes - 2/8/08

“inform the community…” How many times do we hear this expression! And yet when I asked a Washington Post reporter years ago to define exactly what her community was I got a vague generalized answer about gender and demographics when in fact her “community” was upper-middle class white college educated politically correct women of a predetermined mindset. And she was a local reporter of DC, a largely black city of under education older people!

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