Tribune files for bankruptcy. Send donations to…

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Tribune Co. filed for bankruptcy this month. Ten years ago, maybe even five, I would have followed that statement with the line “sending shockwaves through the media world,” but let’s face it…no surprise there. One of the largest news conglomerates in the country is crumbling with little expectation of recovery due to paltry advertising sales and a complex financing structure.

Of course, Tribune is not alone, as the LA Times summarizes (Note: as pointed out by reader AR, the LA Times is in fact a Tribune asset, along with of course The Chicago Tribune, Hartford Courant, and others) :

Tribune is far from being the only troubled media company. In the last week alone, the New York Times said it would mortgage its Manhattan headquarters for as much as $225 million to help cover operating costs, industry leader Gannett Co. pushed ahead with the layoff of 2,000 employees, and Denver’s Rocky Mountain News and the Miami Herald were put up for sale.

Here’s an interesting take: bailouts are being considered left and right, with every industry vying for a seat on the government’s life-raft. The auto industry and municipalities cry foul over market conditions; meanwhile, the Fourth Estate has been slowly drowning for years and nobody is exactly rushing to its aid. Journalism is supposed to be the last bastion of transparency, right? The political ramifications of its demise are an ethical horrorshow waiting to happen — see, for example, the Bush administration’s easily executed manipulation of the past eight years.

In the end, its failure to maintain its business standing rests solely on an inability to adapt to new conditions (in this case, the Internet). How is the Tribune’s plight different from GM’s? They both support products that are inefficient, expensive and difficult to sell. They are both victims of seizmic shifts in the consumer and economic markets. Only one of them has a hand out on the sidewalk, though…and not the one that is supposed to be keeping us all honest.

Food for thought.

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