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The [Wednesday] Papers

Now that the hapless Tony Ridder stopped taking half-measures and finally just sold-out entirely, the Tribune Company's head honcho Dennis FitzSimons moves into the top slot as "the media world's most embattled CEO."

So says the Columbia Journalism Review in its new issue.

"Wall Street is grumbling about Tribune's sorry showing in '05 (anemic stock price, embarrassing circulation scandal, a belated $1 billion IRS bill, etc.), and FitzSimons is scrambling to convince investors that he can wring more money out of Tribune's properties," CJR says.

Apparently wringing better journalism out of the Tribune's properties isn't an option.

CJR goes on to annotate "as a public service" a presentation FitzSimons gave to Wall Street analysts in December.

That is, as a public service to print subscribers only. So I can't provide a link. But I can provide the highlights this week. I'll start with this one. "Said" is FitzSimons, "Unsaid" is CJR's comment. "BR" is The Beachwood Reporter adding value.

Said: "Our focus on cost reduction, given our current revenue environment, has been intense."

Unsaid: Despite the sky-is-falling rhetoric, Tribune remains enormously profitable. Yes, newspapers are suffering through a difficult transition, but Tribune's operating profit margin for 2005 is over 20 percent. Exxon Mobil, on the other hand, which just reported the highest profit in U.S. history, has an operating margin of 17 percent.

BR: "Focus" means obsession, "cost reduction" means costing people their jobs, "current revenue environment" means no matter how much money we make it will never be enough, and "intense" means I just got a 3.1 percent raise to a base salary of $985,000, plus a $250,000 bonus for my crappy performance in 2005, and don't even start in on my stock options.

Best. Tribune. Headline. Ever. Now. Even. Better.
"Largest. Profit. Ever."
- Splayed across the Chicago Tribune's front page on Jan. 31, 2006, on top of a story about Exxon Mobil's record profits. See Unsaid.

Professional Assocation: Mary Wisniewski is on the Chicago Headline Club's Board of Directors.

So I guess they let PR people hold those positions, too.

I tuned into Chicago Tonight last night only to find out in the introduction that Chicago Sun-Times columnist Debra Pickett would read an essay later in the show about scandals in the Illinois governor's office through history. That's how I ended up watching American Idol.

I'm not sure, but I think I heard Pickett on Chicago public radio the other day, too. And she's started a blog.

So now she's annoying me across multiple platforms.

The sadly prolific Pickett appears to be keeping her various Sun-Times columns, including The Smart Girls Book Club, which offends on so many levels.

First, just because The Husband thinks she's smart doesn't make it true. And second, is she saying everyone else's book clubs are for Dumb Girls? Because that's what I think she's saying. And the whole girly gender thing, well, wake me when the 1950s are over.

Better yet, now introducing The Dumber Than Debra Pickett Girls Book Club. In our Beachwood Books forum. Get to it.

From Where You Stand
"Anti-Gay Sen. Meeks Says He'll Likely Run For Governor"
- Chicago Free Press last week

Explaining Englewood
Did you know that the Daily Southtown began publishing in 1906 as the Englewood Economist?

The paper, owned by Hollinger Inc., which also owns the Sun-Times, morphed into the twice-weekly Southtown Economist, and then the Daily Southtown. The paper also moved out of Englewood and is now based in the southwest suburb of Tinley Park.

But somebody really ought to do something about Englewood.

Political Profiling
"Selective Service had a different description years ago when it found him unfit for the military because of a 'moderately-severe character defect manifested by well-documented ideation with a paranoid flavor and a grandiose character.'"

There's no way anyone like that could ever get elected.

- Tim Willette

"Cheney Plugs Roskam, Defends Bush"
Vice President Dick Cheney stirred up a Republican crowd Monday when he used a stump speech for congressional candidate Peter Roskam to offer a vigorous defense of Bush administration policies on Iraq, homeland security and the U.S. economy.

Cheney's 20-minute speech to a crowd of more than 400 GOP heavyweights in Addison also pumped about $200,000 into Roskam's campaign fund as the state senator readies for his run at a crucial congressional seat.

The per capita income for the village is $21,201, and 9.6 percent of the population and 7.2 percent of families are below the poverty line, the highest figures of any municipality in DuPage County. Out of the total population, 13.2 percent of those under the age of 18 and 7.3 percent of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

The U.S. economy is strong, Cheney said, but he pushed for Congress to "make the Bush tax cuts permanent."

President Bush's fiscal year 2007 budget would eliminate funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), terminating food assistance to 420,000 low-income seniors in an average month.

CSFP provides monthly nutritious food packages primarily to low-income seniors aged 60 and older in parts of 32 states, the District of Columbia, and two Indian reservations. The typical food package, whichi s designed to supplement low-income seniors' diets with nutrient-rich foods, costs the government less than $20 per participant a month and includes items such as canned tuna fish, peanut butter, cheese, cereal, and canned fruits and vegetables.

Before his public remarks, Cheney mingled at a private reception with some of the donors. Supporters entering the room were greeted by a 2-1/2-foot-tall ice sculpture spelling out "ROSKAM." Inside, they dined on a mix of hors d'oeuvres, with a chocolate fountain available for desserts.

About 9 percent of Illinoisans are food insecure and do not always have money to buy food. Another 3 percent of Illinoisans are food insecure with hunger. And 11.8 percent of Illinoisans live in poverty--more than in any other Midwest state.

Chicago Sun-Times, 3/14/06
Illinois Interagency Nutrition Council data sheet, 11/05
Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, 2/14/06

- Tim Willette

In Today's Reporter
If you read one more thing in today's Reporter, make it our Beachwood Brackets, The World's Greatest NCAA Basketball Tournament Brackets Anywhere. You don't even have to like basketball to enjoy it. Or college. Just remember to kick back a little when it's time for the Beachwood Reporter Pledge Drive.

Use the Tip Line: Because Dennis FitzSimons doesn't want you to.


Posted on March 15, 2006

MUSIC - December In Chicago Drill.
TV - Don't Weaken Media Ownership Limits.
POLITICS - Another SRO Crisis.
SPORTS - TrackNotes: Mom.

BOOKS - How Stereo Was Sold To A Skeptical Public.

PEOPLE PLACES & THINGS - Chicago Footwork King's Bail Battle.

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