Tribune’s Lean Approach: Analysts Fret, But Neuharth Applauds


Analysts may be fretting over the new model newspaper outlined last week by Tribune CEO Sam Zell, but Al Neuharth, perhaps the last person who truly revolutionized newspapering, likes what he’s hearing. The NYT looks at Zell’s call for a 50-50 ratio between copy and ads, a reduction of 500 pages of editorial, more job cuts and productivity comparisons among journalists and finds an early consensus among analysts that this is just one of many bad options for the newspaper industry. Near term, the decision will likely save money; but this batch of changes could lower sinking morale even further among the papers’ reporters, leaving publishers with a diminished product and ultimately send more readers to the web while undercutting the brand.

Neuharth’s advice: The kind of shrinkage Zell has in mind recalls the position Neuharth took when he created USA Today, which despite being derided as “McPaper” in comparison to a fast-food chain, is still around and was one of the few to (barely) avoid a drop in circulation for the last six months. But Neuharth advises gradual implementation of Zell’s proposals in order to limit any harm to the newspaper’s name and without necessarily shocking readers: “Most readers of newspapers really only consume a small fraction of what the newspaper produces. Can you give them the stuff they want, even though there

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