The Tribune walks off the bankruptcy plank -- back onto a leaky boat?

Posted by Mitchell - August 2, 2012 (entry 689)

In 2008, the Chicago-based Tribune Company filed for bankruptcy -- the largest bankruptcy in the history of American media. The Tribune tried to reorganize its affairs while various competing teams of creditors tried to grab a piece of the multi-billion-dollar Tribune pie. Meanwhile, the American journalism and broadcasting establishments were undergoing a hemorrhaging of historic proportions, threatening the very future of both industries.

On July 13, 2012 (a Friday, by the way), Tribune finally got court approval for a plan to emerge from bankruptcy (though another group of creditors have filed suit to scuttle the approval; we'll see if that goes anywhere). On July 14, Tribune gloated on the front page of its flagship newspaper, deeming the court win a "fresh start" in a headline on the Chicago Tribune. But this was like applying lipstick to a pig. Certainly the business community doesn't buy this "fresh start" rhetoric -- the widely-held expectation is that the Tribune will sell off a good chunk of its properties in 2013. This is a far cry from the haughty hopes Tribune held in 2002 to consolidate its way into becoming a top-ten media company; instead, the Tribune may well be lucky to survive the next year intact in any form.

The Tribune may well try to pin this on meddling activists like those involved with Chicago Media Action, and may try to apply a guilt trip saying that if the Tribune goes away, Chicago will be the poorer as a result. As to the first charge, we stand guilty as charged, but we can claim no responsibility for the Tribune's haughty decision to gamble its future in 2003 on a series of controversial media ownership changes that activists like those in CMA helped block, which resulted in a stunning cascade of events that culminated in a ownership change and subsequent bankruptcy filing. As to the second charge, Chicago may well lose a source of knowledge, but like much of the corporate media Tribune was actively gutting its own core of journalists and priority to journalism. It's easy to see through this disingenous claim, which is why some activists have called for the growth of nonprofit journalism.

RELATED: Public Debate Disempowered: A Public Rebuttal to the Chicago Tribune

UPDATE: The Hail-Mary attempt by creditors to block the Tribune's bankruptcy proceedings has failed

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