Strupp’s ASNE Notebook #3: Tierney, Sulzberger — And a Stephen Colbert Lookalike?

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By: Joe Strupp

To say Tribune Company editors here at the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) convention are curious about who may wind up buying their chain when the Tribune board meets on Friday would be an understatement. Although none would comment on the record, the running question among the Tribune newsroom bosses is not ?What is the future of the newspaper business?? but ?Who owns us now??

At least one online editor noted that plans to roll out some expansion efforts and combined online plans have been placed on hold until the sale is announced, if it is. ?We can?t do anything yet,? the editor said.

Before Tom Rosenstiel of the Project for Excellence in Journalism could even sit down to discuss newspaper ownership with Philadelphia Inquirer Publisher Brian Tierney and Chris Harte of the Star-Tribune in Minneapolis on Thursday, Tierney made an observation.

?Dye his hair a little bit and tell me he doesn?t look a little like Stephen Colbert,? the outspoken Tierney observed to mild laughs. ?A cousin, a brother, maybe.?

Rosenstiel?s perplexed reply, ?Okay??…?

Even though the panel was about newspapers and the Web, Donald Graham, chairman of The Washington Post Company, took time during the discussion Thursday morning to plug the latest special issue of his company?s other well-known publication, Newsweek.

Pulling out a copy of the issue devoted to letters from soldiers in Iraq, Graham said he had left extra copies at the back of the room and invited ASNE members to take a look.

After Tierney spoke during that Thursday afternoon panel on the ups and downs of private ownership, one of the first to jump on stage and congratulate him was New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. ?Just came over to say nice job,? Sulzberger told Tierney. He then reminded Tierney that the two were due to dine together soon.

?You?re buying, right?? Tierney joked.

Roger Black, the famed designer, believes newspapers have reached out enough to the Internet, it?s how they reach out that he says they have to improve. ?We have to find a way of making it more conversational,? Black said as he spoke to E&P during ASNE?s third annual Gay Reception, which he sponsored. ?People have a preoccupation with their own world, they like to make a connection with other people.?

Before he led the discussion of sports reporting and access with Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, NBA commissioner David Stern, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, and NASCAR CEO Brian France, Michael Wilbon of The Washington Post had to deflect a question of his own newly found wealth.

After Jeff Cohen, editor of the Houston Chronicle, commented on reports that Wilbon had signed a new $8 million contract with ESPN, Wilbon stated, ?Can I say ?no comment?? I learned that from all four of these gentlemen.?

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