T Dog’s Think Tank: Chicago Tribune still feeling effects of Hurricane Zell

downloadLast week’s opinion piece shows the insensitivity of the Zell and Michaels era still abound at the Trib

As you know by now, Chicago Tribune Editorial Board member Kristen McQueary caused a huge stir last Friday writing a column “wishing” a Hurricane Katrina storm would wipe out Chicago, giving it a “reboot” as the city struggles with crime, financial problems, and poor public schools.

I guess the giant grasshoppers wreaking havoc on Chicago in Beginning Of The End wasn’t enough for her.

Readers were outraged, suggesting McQueary would wish death on citizens, in order to “refresh” the city. Moreover, many black readers were angered, suggesting inadvertently the city would be a better place to live if black and Hispanic residents left, noting New Orleans became a better place to live since the African-American population dropped after Hurricane Katrina hit ten years ago.  Moreover, she wrote a second column defending the first, saying readers took it out of context.

Well, can you tell me where the rebirth is? New Orleans was declining in Nielsen DMA rankings – even before Hurricane Katrina hit. The market, ranked 51st, still trails smaller markets in ad revenue. And the city is still beset with crime – its murder rate per capita is much higher than Chicago’s.

And while Chicago definitely needs improvement in a LOT of areas (especially in radio, who yours truly deemed the worst a while back), a report from Media Life Magazine last week said Chicago has no trouble in attracting top media talent and some media buyers would rather live here than New York or Los Angeles to do business, despite the city’s challenges – and definitely more so than New Orleans, where the pay is considerably less.

But this doesn’t matter to McQueary, who is a by-product of another hurricane – two of them in fact – Hurricane Zell and Hurricane Michaels – as is Sam “The Ziphead” Zell and Randy “Court Jester” Michaels, who destroyed a once-great paper using shock tactics and is still struggling to get back on track. Zell bought out Tribune Company in 2007, laden it with debt, and subsequently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  In 2009, yours truly ripped into the editorial board for an useless Dancing With The Stars editorial; photoshopping Philadelphia Flyers player Chris Pronger in a skirt during the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, and of course, those late-night poker parties Michaels was holding in the Tribune Tower penthouse, among other sins.

The sad part is, some of those Zell and Michaels cronies are still there – I personally dealt with one of them after yours truly made fun of their “breaking news” slogan on Twitter, after they used it to tell us where WGN-TV meteorologist Tom Skilling went on vacation and I called them out on it. One Court Jester loyalist stopped the fun when I said the Chicago Tribune was being taken over by the writing staff of the CBS’ now-defunct infertile sitcom The Millers. Ouch!

If readers are mad about the McQueary editorial, they can take heart about Chicago Tribune parent company’s stock price, which continues to drop. While Tribune Publishing revenues did beat second quarter estimates, revenue continued to fall with its stock price down 40 percent since they started trading on the stock exchange a year ago (Tribune Publishing separated from broadcasting division last year.) And this latest controversy won’t help.

As for McQueary’s column – as I said for years, right in this space – there’s needs to be more diversity in the media ranks in Chicago and in the industry in general. In a diverse city, it’s a shame the media business isn’t as diverse. In a piece I wrote earlier this year regarding Dan Bernstein’s sexist comments and former New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley writing about too much diversity in the business, I pointed out minorities must work harder to prove their worth in the media business, whether if in Chicago or in Hollywood.

So while Chicago does have a litany of problems like any other city, the Chicago Tribune has some of their own, created by Hurricane Zell and Hurricane Michaels – and the “clean-up efforts” are still ongoing. But by judging by this garbage editorial, you wonder if any “clean-up efforts” are taking place at all.

Edited on 2015-09-03 at 12:35 p.m. (incorrect link to Tribune stock story replaced) 

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