Randy Michaels (Tribune CEO) put out a list to his company chronicling 100 words that “shall not be named”. It’s my understanding this list was intended for Tribune writers, WGN TV presenters, and WGN radio hosts.
“The real goal here is to avoid using words that make you sound like you’re reading, instead of talking — that shatter the image you’re speaking knowledgeably to one person. By not using ‘newsspeak,’ you enhance your reputation as a communicator.”
Robert Feder wrote a scathing review of this memo and Randy’s practices at WGN. Once you get on Mr. Feder’s bad side you’re doomed. That’s not to say Rob (not Bob) isn’t objective. But the bigger issue (as Feder’s pointed out in his column) with this regime and others (Ahern’s CBS 2) is the fundamental culture schism.
The new bosses at Tribune came in and pissed all over everything THEN tried to establish themselves as credible and respect worthy management. Now, they’re looked at as the bulls in a China shop when all they really want is to fix a company mired in “we’ve always done it this way” which is killing newspaper across the US.
I had lunch with a friend and fellow radio programmer yesterday and we laughed because the “list” of words not to mention is not too far off base. Million dollar TV and Radio hosts have gotten lazy. Their management has been reluctant to shape and mold them, or perhaps incapable because the managers didn’t have the chops or command the respect to do so. Either way, it’s time to catapult Tribune into the 21st Century for sure. There’s no doubt about that.
Anyone who says YOU ALL or YOU GUYS is NOT relating to an audience of ONE, which is what your audience ALWAYS is. But tell that to Oprah. Sometimes, she even calls the audience……AUDIENCE!
I think Mr. Feder recognizes these things even though he admittedly has not programmed a radio or TV station. He get’s it. He also gets how the Tribune Company will rot from the inside out if this stuff continues the way it’s being done.
Mr. Michaels is indeed attacking the messenger. That’s what his staff is doing as well, because of the way he executed this initiative. Memos like this are meant for telling all staff the parking lot is going to be painted on Monday and please park in lot B. Phone calls, one on one development meetings and good old conversations are the way to motivate and inspire real change on the scale they need at the Trib.
Randy, you need to get those people walking with you NOT 20 steps behind you in fear. I recall the signs all over the inside of WGN Radio which boldly stated: “YOU own this place now” referring to employee ownership. If the employees own the place, why aren’t they being treated with as much or MORE respect than you’d offer to Sam Zell? The employees actually have SKIN IN THE GAME.
Also noted by Feder is how Michaels bagged on bloggers. Funny. Bloggers are good enough to anchor ChicagoNow.com AND take up precious airtime on WGN CHICAGO! So what does Robert Feder know? I think he’s seen enough over his 30 years covering Chicago media to know when something’s off. He’s also smart enough to know the web is the future for all writers and darn near everything…..but then again, What the hell does Matt DuBiel know….?
(In full disclosure, I reached out to ChicagoNow about blogging for them a while back. I began “blogging” in 1997, and then started podcasting in 2004. Admittedly, it wasn’t a weekly effort on my part. Either way, I pitched ChicagoNow on a blog concept coming from the perspective of a 30 something dad in the suburbs. I got a response. I was told to lay out some examples, which I did, and I then never heard back. The more I thought about it afterward, the more I questioned why anyone would blog for ChicagoNow or anywhere else UNLESS they are getting paid. Blogs are cheap and easy to set up and when you control your blog you control your message, your brand and your relationships. Anyone blogging for ChicagoNow for free should blog on their own website and let ChicagoNow refeed it. Don’t just blog for ChicagoNow or any other site for free.)