The [Thursday] Papers
Of all the things to suspend someone for, the Tribune Company suspends a vice president for sending out an e-mail chock full of interesting links including three Onion News Network videos, one of which was a feminist critique of the way women are portrayed and rewarded on reality TV?
Get a grip, people.
It wasn't offensive when ONN made it - last January - and it's not offensive now.
Of all the things that have gone on in the Tribune Company since Sam Zell took over, this is what earns a suspension?
I'm sorry, but I can't applaud a PR move designed to staunch the hemorrhaging of the Tribune's dignity.
I'm not a fan of Lee Abrams, but he is trying to get Trib folks to pay attention and think about the same sort of things I write about here and find severely lacking inside our news organizations: management, leadership, creativity and change. There is no doubt that the company is now run by clowns, but that doesn't mean they haven't been refreshing at times. It just means they don't quite have the right DNA to steer the ship.
Oh, but the timing of it, that was just stupid!
Really? Why? Because it "looks" bad? Is "perception" everything? What, we're all corporate publicists now? I don't care how it "looks," I care how it "is."
And how it is is nothing like it's being portrayed in many quarters.
"Well, that was quick," Chicagoist reports. "Tribune Co. Chief Innovation Officer Lee Abrams, whose office memo filled with video links to Onion News Network video links and references to 'sluts' led to a litany of employee complaints, was suspended indefinitely without pay by Tribune Co. CEO Randy Michaels."
There were links to three ONN videos and the memo was not filled with references to sluts. It used the word once to introduce the video.
"Tribune Co. Clown-in-Chief Lee Abrams has been suspended after sending a poorly-timed memo linking to a video about 'Sluts,'" Gawker writes.
First, the Tribune Company's Clown-in-Chief is Randy Michaels. Second, is the issue simply that the memo was "poorly timed"? Finally, doesn't this give you the impression that Abrams send out a memo linking to a video about sluts? Is that what he did? Do what so few reporters seem to have done and look at the memo yourself. Are you offended?
And then there's this from Robert Feder:
"Although it contained links to some videos that any normal person would consider outrageously inappropriate for the workplace - including one in which women identified as 'sluts' were seen simulating lewd acts - Abrams' memo was not much different than dozens of others he'd written since 2008."
Do you know any normal people, Robert? My God! Nowhere does Feder explain that the video including "sluts" was a parody of what you can see on TV every night.
(But then, Feder bungled this story too; one in which Michaels was actually right.)
Why am I so upset about this? Three reasons.
1. If people don't understand what is and isn't offensive - and why - then we'll never solve anything. There's a lot of piling-on here that is ignorant to its core. Putting time and energy towards things like this only allows the real problems to continue flourishing. Far, far, far worse has occurred at the Tribune that has never been spoken about. Don't make a cause out of nonsense.
2. Because Abrams is being made a scapegoat when the spotlight of scrutiny should remain on Michaels. And because it's a transparently insincere PR move, which we should never condone.
3. Because the facts are being misreported. Al Gore said he invented the Internet! I believe in facts. The impression the public - and many in the media - have about the Abrams memo is simply wrong. Because of what the media has told them.
A brilliant ONN video? I thought the day would never come!
Meanwhile, how much does Stella Foster make? How do some (other) columnists, ahem, keep their jobs after making mistake after mistake? Remember the circulation scandal at the Sun-Times? I mean, it goes on and on. Accountability is rare. Except when you include a video parodying the misogynistic world of reality TV. Then you are suspended because your employees aren't the most sophisticated cats in the land and a former shock jock who used to make jokes about gay people and still uses the stage name Randy (get it?) and allegedly roamed the halls of Clear Channel wearing a penis necklace now leads one of the nation's largest media companies and wants to stay after bankruptcy so he needs a scapegoat. It's a misdirection play - and it's working.
Now this is offensive.
A Beachwood Halloween
The Beachwood Tip Line: The world needs more lerts.
Tribune Memo Of The Day
The high-profile media coverage of our company over the last week or so has generated angst and raised a number of questions. Given the nature of the coverage, yesterday's complaints about the inappropriate email, and today's decision to suspend Lee Abrams, I want to take a moment to address our environment at Chicago Tribune Media Group. I also want to reiterate the importance we place on treating employees with respect, and the high standards of conduct we expect of everyone at CTMG, especially those in leadership positions.
As you know, one of the strategic pillars of the Winning Plan is our emphasis on culture. As the plan states, "Our culture attracts and retains highly talented and engaged employees". While there's been significant progress in creating and maintaining a positive working environment at CTMG, I want to reiterate our principles:
* We do not tolerate hurtful or offensive actions and behaviors. We believe everyone should be treated fairly and work in a high performance environment.
* We believe and invest in communication, actively seeking employee input to develop winning solutions for customers.
* We are focused on creating an innovative, collaborative environment to increase the number of new ideas and strategies.
* We have high standards of conduct including integrity, honesty and professional decorum. This is not a new set of expectations. These have, and will continue to be the high standards we strive to achieve at CTMG.
If you have any feedback on our environment and/or how we can improve our performance, please feel free to contact me directly. You can also contact your department head, Human Resources or report any breaches of the company's code of conduct by calling the confidential hotline 1-800-216-1772.
In addition to the communication channels described above, I will continue to be accessible and available to answer your questions. I appreciate your efforts, and my confidence is high because we have great people in our company. You have so much to be proud of, and I hope you share my enthusiasm and optimism regarding our future.
Let's continue to build on our momentum and success,
Posted on October 14, 2010
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