Another day, another development and time once again for Kansas City Star employees to be thankful that they’re not working at a paper owned by Chicago-based Tribune Company.
On Wednesday, Tribune Company, which publishes The Chicago Tribune and several other major newspapers, indefinitely suspended Chief Innovation Officer Lee Abrams because of a company-wide memo he sent out on Monday, linking to lewd videos.
The Chicago Tribune reported today that the e-mail “spurred a rash of employee complaints.”
The Trib’s story noted that the Abrams incident followed by less than a week a New York Times front-page story that said Tribune Company managers who took over after an ownership sale in December 2007 had fostered a sexist “frat house” in Tribune Tower, which houses Tribune corporate offices as well as The Chicago Tribune.
I blogged yesterday about The New York Times story, a well-reported and illuminating piece by David Carr about a once-proud company that has lost its way.
Randy Michaels, chief executive of Tribune Company, said in an e-mail announcing the suspension: “Lee recognizes that the video was in extremely bad taste and that it offended employees…This is the kind of serious mistake that can’t be tolerated; we intend to address it promptly and forcefully.”
It was none other than Michaels, however, who at one time was associated with 61 Country radio in Kansas City, who signed off a couple of years ago on an eye-opening rewrite of the employee handbook.
“Working at Tribune means accepting that you might hear a word that you, personally, might not use,” the new handbook said. “You might experience an attitude you don’t share. You might hear a joke that you don’t consider funny. That is because a loose, fun, nonlinear atmosphere is important to the creative process…
“This should be understood, should not be a surprise and not considered harassment.”
In light of this week’s developments, I guess Michaels, Abrams and other top managers got a little more of a “nonlinear” climate than they wanted.
Today’s Chicago Tribune story says Abrams apologized Tuesday “to everyone who was offended” by the Monday e-mail memo, which contained a link to a video newscast parody labeled “Sluts.” The video included female nudity.
Like Michaels and many others who became top Tribune managers in 2008, Abrams has a background in radio. He was chief programming officer for XM Satellite Radio (now Sirius-XM) before moving to Tribune Company.
A Forbes blogger asked yesterday how Abrams “could have been so reckless as to send a company-wide memo touting a lewd video at a time when he and his fellow executives were already under fire for behaving like frat boys?”
The blogger quoted Dan Neil, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former columnist for the Tribune-owned Los Angeles Times, as saying, “Lee Abrams is an idiot.”
Neil, who now writes for the Wall Street Journal, said that part of Abrams’ job was to send out weekly “Think Pieces,” theoretically aimed at boosting morale among the troops.
“No one could ever figure out what those Monday morning missives meant,” Neil was quoted as saying. “And all I can say is that at least one of them finally had a positive effect.”