What the Merger of Tribune and Times Mirror Means for Newsday’s Future in the City

Now that they are no longer working for the Times Mirror Company, some Newsday reporters are hoping that New York Newsday , shut down in 1995, will be revived. At a staff meeting on March 13, just after the announcement that the Tribune Comany had purchased Times Mirror, the topic of a move to the big city was raised during a question-and-answer session, and Newsday publisher Raymond Jansen did not exactly rule it out. Mr. Jansen did urge caution on the notion of Newsday “parachuting into Manhattan” again–but left open the possibility of an incremental move into the Manhattan market.

“Any move into New York would be slow and methodical,” said a Newsday editor who attended the meeting, paraphrasing what Mr. Jansen said.

Jack Fuller, who heads Tribune’s newspaper division, said in a conference call on March 13: “We like Newsday for what it is, a great market.” But he added, referring to that tabloid’s growing hold on Brooklyn and Queens: “And we know it’s been expanding to some extent, and we like the strategy it has, and we’re very excited about getting back into the metropolitan market there, and that’s part of what makes this deal so attractive to us.”

Kevin Gruneich, an analyst at Bear Stearns & Company who covers both Times Mirror and Tribune, said, “The Tribune Company is all about major markets and to own two major media assets is very meaningful to them. It could be a pretty powerful combination.”

In Chicago, in addition to its flagship paper, the Chicago Tribune , the company owns WGN-TV and has long used the two for cross-promotion. And if Chicago is any sign of plans for New York, expect to see Newsday reporters on the Tribune-owned WPIX-TV, perhaps in a joint investigation or two with WB11 News at Ten .

With the benefit of promotional support from WPIX–a WB affiliate that gets better sign-on-to-sign-off ratings than the New York Fox and CBS affiliates–the block-by-block march toward the East River may accelerate.

Mr. Jansen mentioned cross-promotion during the March 13 staff meeting. “There will clearly be some experimentation with WPIX,” said a Newsday staff member who was at the meeting. “Synergy is the word at the Tribune Company. [Mr. Jansen] said he can learn from them because they are ahead of us in convergence.”

The biggest losers in a Newsday expansion would be the Daily News which can ill afford to lose outer-borough readers.

“If I were them, I would worry,” said Edward Atorino, an analyst with Wasserstein Perella & Company.

Currently, Federal Communications Commission regulations prohibit ownership of both a newspaper and television station in the same market. But the enforcement of that rule is waning. For example, in New York, Rupert Murdoch received an F.C.C. waiver so that he could keep both the New York Post and the local Fox Network station WNYW.

In the early 1990’s, both the Times Mirror Company and the Tribune Company retreated from the New York newspaper market. During a strike at the Daily News , the Tribune Company paid Robert Maxwell $60 million to take the tabloid off its hands in 1991. Then, in 1995, Times Mirror saw fit to close down New York Newsday shortly after former General Mills cereal executive Mark Willes became chief executive of Times Mirror.

There were other bright spots in the merger announcement for the Newsday newsroom. Key among them was Mr. Willes’ announcement that he would be leaving the company once the merger is completed.

“I’m sure he’s leaving with a golden parachute, but people are glad about that,” said one Newsday employee.

After Mr. Willes joined Times Mirror, he cut costs and put big chinks in the wall between the editorial and business staffs. In a recent debacle, Mr. Willes oversaw the publication of a special issue of the Los Angeles Times Magazine that was basically made up of advertorial copy to benefit the Staples Center arena. So, to see Mr. Willes cut out of negotiations with Tribune, was, for Newsday employees, a just ending to his newspaper career.

“The feeling is that he blew it,” said Fred Bruning, a Newsday reporter and the union representative for the editorial staff.

Mr. Bruning also explained another positive for the Newsday newsroom: stock options. Most employees get options to buy 100 shares a year. But the Times Mirror stock had been slumping in recent months, losing a third in value from the all-time high of $72.13 set last October to just under $48 on the last close before the merger announcement. Tribune said it would pay $95 per share to buy Times Mirror, sending Time Mirror skyrocketing to over $88 on March 14.

When Lewis Beale left the Daily News for YM magazine to cover the same beat (except for 12-year-old girls) last December, he had a few things to get off his chest. Mr. Beale, a veteran film reporter, had a problem with his boss, features editor Alan Mirabella. So, as he was moving onward and upward to YM , a magazine for young girls, Mr. Beale sent a poison memo to Mr. Mirabella’s boss, Daily News editor in chief Debby Krenek. Mr. Beale didn’t try to keep the memo secret and soon thereafter others in the features department were reading it.

“It was one of those burn-your-bridges types of letters,” said a Daily News staff member.

Things didn’t work out at YM and Mr. Beale left the teeny-bopping magazine just days after his one-month anniversary.

Much to the daily staff’s surprise, within a month after Mr. Beale left YM , he managed to get a job at the Daily News –except this time working for Sunday editor Edward Kosner.

“We helped him build a bridge called hope,” Mr. Kosner said. He added, “I think Lewis made a mistake in leaving. He discovered that he had made a mistake and when he became available we found a spot for him at the Sunday paper.”

At the Daily News , for Sunday and daily staff alike, the episode leaves little room for doubt that Mr. Kosner and Ms. Krenek are running virtually rival publications.

“I think most people see it as the Sunday group and Kosner sticking it to the News side,” said one staff member.

Mr. Beale had no comment.

Fast Company is good for one thing, at least: keeping its readers up on the latest corporate lingo. Here are 47 terms from a recent issue referring to management and business practices: Mind Meld, participatory storytelling, broad-based support network, low viscosity, surfing manifesto, Fool Box, knowledge work, co-conspirators, “the company as disposable injection device,” courseware, e-learning infrastructures, enacted learning, a culture of grassroots leadership, change initiative, change agent, the expert model of change, ethic of impermanence, cybercoach, “journey of professional growth and self-discovery,” envisioner, benchmark (as a verb), flippable, serial flipper, futurist, future strategist, information architecture, pressure tense, branded environment, “adopted philosophy of the team,” advice-giving process, Insight Session, experiential-learning events, WWWD? (What Would Walt [Disney] Do?), intrapreneur, leadership tool kit, unique consumer proposition, management lab, mentor coach, multifunctional work teams, the networked market, positive deviance, self-reinvention, service recovery, soloist, wealth creators, the state of play, new-wealth treadmill.

Things are flush at Fortune . Just as the Time Warner business magazine celebrates its 70th anniversary, ad revenues are up 28 percent to $325 million for 1999 and circulation has risen 4.7 percent to 818,791, for the last six months of 1999. Now as many as 40 people on staff are getting a seven-day, all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii for a company retreat.

Who gets to go: anyone with the rank of senior editor and above, all department heads and 13 people from the rest of the editorial staff chosen by lottery. The winners were announced the last week of February.

“It’s a working meeting–a lot of work gets done,” said Fortune spokesman Terry McDevitt.

Elsewhere at Time Inc.: Time managing editor Walter Isaacson led a troupe to Maui for four days in early February, and the entire staff of In Style will be going to Antigua in May.

What the Merger of Tribune and Times Mirror Means for Newsday’s Future in the City