Trib CEO shoots the messenger -- but misses the point

March 12, 2010

Randy Michaels

 

After what I wrote about Randy Michaels earlier this week, it's no wonder the Tribune Co. CEO doesn't care much for me. But who knew of his low regard for the whole business of bloggers?

The piece here about his edict banning 119 words and phrases from newscasts on news/talk WGN-AM (720) drew more than 100,000 hits and more than 325 comments to this site in just two days. It also got picked up by countless other bloggers (including the Chicago Tribune's own Eric Zorn and‚ Phil Rosenthal) and by most broadcast industry trade publications. One of them, Radio Business Report, reached out to Michaels for comment. Here's what Michaels said:

"I feel sorry for Bob.‚ If he thinks it's wrong for the CEO of a content company to focus on content, that could help explain why he is no longer paid to be in media."

Setting aside the false familiarity (no one who knows me calls me "Bob"), Michaels' response is irksome for two reasons: First, it falsely assumes that I think a CEO shouldn't "focus on content." No, I just believe the arrogant and heavy-handed way he went about it was wrong. And second, to say that I am "no longer paid to be in media" is completely and utterly false.

I'm not about to get into details of my contract with Chicago Public Radio (the parent of Vocalo.org), but I can assure you that I'm not writing this blog as a lark. In fact, before I accepted this position last fall (after I'd taken a buyout from the Chicago Sun-Times), I turned down a very generous offer from Tribune Co. to write for its Chicago Now blog site. Perhaps Michaels wasn't aware of that.

More troubling, though, is the inference that Michaels believes all bloggers are unpaid hobbyists who aren't really "in media," as he defines it. In case he doesn't know it, online professional journalism happens to be the future of media.

It's obvious that Michaels, old radio showman that he is, prefers tinkering with his radio toys and micromanaging his employees rather than taking on the difficult task of leading his company out of bankruptcy and into 21st‚ century relevance. But can he really be so out of touch with the business he's supposed to be saving?

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