Lee Abrams (left) and the Unabomber
As a public service, I've decided to take a stab at translating the latest memo from Lee "The 2x4 Tool" Abrams, the Tribune Co.'s "innovation chief" and most hated man in journalism (the Tribune Co. owns the Los Angeles Times and the Newport Beach-Costa Mesa Daily Pilot, making this an Orange County item -- at least in my mind).
Here is the translation to just a small portion of his memo. If there's a demand, I'll supply more translations (FYI, the Unabomber-esque ALL CAPS punctuation is all The Tool's). Here goes:
QUALITY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER.
By "quality," I'm talking about the quality of the lay-offs. We're well on our way to eliminating big salaries, medium salaries and any journalist over the age of 30.
WE CAN’T LET THE QUALITY SLIP...IT NEEDS TO GROW.
It's time to pick up the pace of the lay-offs. I suspect there are still some people who are only working 40-hours a week. We've got loans to pay, people! There's no time to rest. As NEIL YOUNG says: "Rust never sleeps!" Either should we!
IT'S TRICKY BECAUSE OF THE ECONOMIC REALITIES, BUT I AM CONFIDENT THAT AS PAINFUL AS IT IS TO DOWNSIZE, WE WILL INCREASE THE QUALITY OF THE PAPERS.
I'm not insane, so I don't believe this bullshit. It defies logic. But I'm being paid well into the six-figures to write these crazy effing memos and I have to say something.
WE HAVE TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO THAT AND WE WILL.
When pigs fly out of my butt.
IT REMINDS ME OF XM WHERE WE COULD ONLY AFFORD TO STAFF A CHANNEL THAT NORMALLY WOULD HAVE TEN OR MORE EMPLOYEES WITH ONE OR TWO.
This is our ultimate plan. At The Times, for example, where we once had 1,200 editorial employees, we'll soon have 120!
IT TOOK SOME RADICAL RETHINKING AND DESPITE A LOT OF NAYSAYERS, WE DID IT. THE QUALITY WAS SUPERIOR TO THE LARGE STAFF STATIONS BY ISOLATING THE BEST POSSBLE PEOPLE, RE-THINKING HOW A STATION IS OPERATED, AND THROWING OUT THE OLD OPERATIONAL PLAYBOOK AND BUILDING A NEW ONE THAT TOOK THE ECONOMICS OF OUR BUSINESS INTO PLAY.
At our newspapers, we're going to have readers generate the content and readers will also snatch their own paper off the press (they'll been able to SMELL THE INK!) and deliver the paper to THEMselves! That's taking ADVANTAGE of today's economics. And because of high gas prices, we'll give each reader a FREE BUS PASS to travel to our printing facilities. That's called THINKING OUT OF THE BOX, folks! Newspaper people, who can't THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX, have NEVER DONE THIS before I arrived on the scene.
NEWSPAPERS ARE QUITE DIFFERENT FROM XM OF COURSE, BUT THERE ARE SCORES OF OTHER EXAMPLES WHERE DOWNSIZING DOESN’T NEGATIVELY AFFECT QUALITY.
For example, ah ... ah ... better move to the NEXT SUBJECT and hope no one NOTICES.
IF YOUR JOB IS AT RISK, THAT IS NOT A CONVINCING ARGUMENT, BUT EMOTIONS ASIDE, IT IS DOABLE.
Emotions aside, you're screwed -- unless you don't make much money, are willing to go along with the nonsense I'm spewing, and resemble Dwight from "The Office" -- because the character of Michael Scott from "The Office" was based on ME! Seriously!
THE IMPORTANCE OF THINKING DIFFERENTLY:
Like a mental patient.
If you think Newspapers [editor's note: not sure why the capital letter but let's go with it] are in a difficult state, try the record Industry.
Actually, sailing ships are a better example, but we don't want to FRIGHTEN THE EMPLOYEES we have left.
You know there's a problem when it's still called the "record" industry but records hardly exist.
Our language is filled with words that no longer hold their original meaning, but let's not go there.
Along comes Steve Jobs with the I-pod thing.
An aside: I wish Steve would hire me, but apparently he's too good for an "innovative chief."
If you think WE are getting nuked by the pundits [and journalists, Wall Street, our employees, readers, advertisers, and anyone else who can fog a mirror] this guy was getting it World War Three [ah, how about World War III] style from the "what does this geek know about OUR business." I don't think he cared too much about what THEY thought.
I know it's a stretch to equate what I'm doing (rehashing ideas from the past 30 years combined with massive layoffs) with a visionary like Jobs who so clearly understood the business model for the 21st century -- but WTF.
Posted by William Lobdell on 8/07/2008