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WSI News - News Watch

Lipinski resigns; Trib still shackled

filed by George Bova

July 15, 2008

It's a damned shame whenever somebody loses their job, most of all when it isn't deserved.  The Tribune is losing money so managing editor of the Chicago Tribune Ann Marie Lipinski announced her resignation this week noting "the position isn't the fit it once was."  Another insider Gerould Kern will succeed her, presumably to better "fit" whatever the paper's new owner Sam Zell has in mind.  Zell writes the checks and he clearly doesn't feel he can make the enterprise profitable without implementing the sort of changes Lipinski wasn't willing to deliver.

Step right up, Mr. Kern.  You should learn where your predecessor didn't.

Plenty of microeconomic theory can explain why the Tribune is in trouble.  It is simple what Lipinski never understood and Trib staffers had better hope Kern learns fast:  No business is immune to the Jaw Effect.  The profitability of any enterprise rests snuggly between marginal revenue on the top-side and marginal costs on the bottom.  Neither follows a straight line but rather two intersecting curves.  Short-sighted management inevitably focuses on cutting costs when they're losing money and Zell clearly intends to take another mighty whack at Tribune headcount and overhead.  What Kern needs to know is such action will never deliver a profit without a plan for growing revenues, too. 

Attacking only the marginal costs at the bottom of the "jaw" leaves Trib staffers unemployed and Zell's pockets still empty of any profit.  Kern will meet the same fate Lipinski already suffered:  Jump first or get pushed.

Kern needs to fix a more fundamental problem than merely cutting costs.  His business model relies on circulation to drive revenue.  Thanks to an egregiously-stupid decision by Tribune senior management (no fault of Lipinski's), Kern inherits a paper tied to "an inherently conflicted situation" that nobody this side of even the Tribune's own public editor can deny.  Sox Fans aren't welcome to read the Tribune.  Or at least not welcome without following this sage advice:  Buyer Beware. 

Without Sox Fans added to circulation, the Tribune's search for more revenue is doomed.  We don't represent a majority of the baseball fans in this town but we represent far more dollar revenue than any money-losing enterprise dependent on circulation can ever overlook.  We don't like how our team is covered by the Tribune and it's simply foolish to believe any of us would find anything inside the present newspaper worth us paying to read. 

We don't like the snarky work of "Sox Fans" the likes of Paul Sullivan ("Top-Ten Worst Moments in Frank Thomas's Career").  We don't like the absurd notions of sports editor Dan McGrath (describing the actions of Sox GM Kenny Williams as "despicable" for trading for Javier Vazquez) or baseball columnist Phil Rogers (declaring 8 career-win Brandon McCarthy a "proven workhorse").  We resent it when media columnist Teddy Greenstein rips a backstop billboard on one side of town and offers fawning praise for a similar one on the other side of town.  We find it a joke when someone employed as an architecture critic like Blair Kamin can't bring himself to write a single word about the structural band-aid that netting represents to the life and safety of baseball fans sitting beneath falling concrete far from our own Sox Park.

Most of all we resent being taken for gullible fools to swallow what the Tribune would want us to believe about journalistic integrity as the order of the day.  Zell, Lipinski and Kern can just forget about it as long as their front-page playoff coverage begins with headlines the likes of "U.S. Insular Field" in 2005, but not a word is mentioned about murders, rapes, and public urinating outside Wrigley Field just two years later

The fiction of journalistic integrity running rampant throughout Tribune Tower is a matter Ann Marie Lipinski never addressed.  Now she's out and plenty of Sox Fans enjoy life without ever picking up a copy of something of no value besides pissing us off.

If Derould Kern believes he can ignore the problem she was derelict to fix, he'll feel the same boot.  Sox Fans suggest he save his job while he still can.

You can get started by ripping apart your sports department, Derould.


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Sep 14... McGrath's Last Gaffe?

July 15... Lipinski resigns; Trib still shackled!

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