Tribune Plans Millions in Exec Bonuses while Reporting Gets Cut

A U.S. federal bankruptcy court is expected to rule this week on whether the bankrupt Tribune media company can pay its executives big bonuses despite the cuts to its reporting staff. According to Business Insider, the Tribune is seeking to pay out over $45 million to its executives (down from $70 million this summer). The Tribune company probably owns a paper near you: the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, Sun Sentinel (South Florida), Orlando Sentinel, Hartford Courant, Morning Call and Daily Press and 23 TV stations and more.

Talk about bankster envy! What's a failing media conglomerate that has slashed staff and frozen salaries doing giving such golden parachutes to management, while ad revenues plummet? It must be hard for the top dogs to take a critical look at the big bankster bonuses when they are pressing hard to line their own wallets. I must confess that I do have a bias, having seen some great investigative reporters I know laid off by the Tribune's "cost-saving" measures, which apparently do not including saving millions of dollars at the top.

The Newspaper Guild and the AFL-CIO filed objections to the bonus plan. As the AFL-CIO noted:

"One of the top executives seeking the $2 million bonus said in an e-mail to employees in February that 'a salary freeze enables us to share the sacrifice.' It’s not clear how a $2 million bonus enables the top managers to share the sacrifice."

Talk about spin by the Trib's big thinkers! I don't know about you, but two million would cover a lot of reporting salaries. Of course, that's just one bonus. For $70 million or $45 million, how many reporters could a company that actually cared about reporting keep on staff for the next five years? I'm not sure, given the variation in journalists' salaries, but I'm sure it'd go a long way. So, I for one am sure hoping the federal bankruptcy court throws the Tribune's bonus request in the trashcan, where it belongs.

Lisa Graves

Lisa Graves is President of the Board of the Center for Media and Democracy and President of True North Research. She is a well-known researcher, writer, and public speaker. Her research and analysis have been cited by every major paper in the country and featured in critically acclaimed books and documentaries, including Ava Du Vernay’s award-winning film, “The 13th,” Bill Moyers’s “United States of ALEC,” and Showtime’s “Years of Living Dangerously.”



I am not at all surprised at the bonuses being sought by executives, however, it seems that bankruptcy tends to line the pockets of company executives and lawyers with those owed money getting pennies on the dollar. As a former manufacturer, it was rare that I received more than a pittance of what was owed me from companies filing bankruptcy while lawyers get their money off the top. I've read they did quite well as a result of the auto companies and I'm sure that a few top law firms did "high fives" over the Bear Stearns & Lehman Bros. mess. I am lucky to have survived the creative legal wranglings of attorneys facilitating Ryder/PIE which kept me up nights over imaginative rules designed by brilliant lawyers to get additional money from customers long after services were rendered and paid in full. We could use some of these geniuses on the side of "the little guy."