Tribune Remains Mum, But D.C. Bureau Changes Expected

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By: Joe Strupp

While The Tribune Co. is offering no formal word on its shake-up of the Washington D.C., bureau, leaked information is sparking interest, especially an unidentified memo that reveals the bureau will offer a more shared-content approach and layoffs beginning Nov. 7.

Contacted by E&P Monday, Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman said only, “I will decline comment” when asked about the D.C. bureau’s future.

That followed a busy online weekend of rumors and Web site speculation. It started Friday when a memo from an unnamed Los Angeles Times staffer to colleagues appeared on the Poynter.org Romenesko site.

“Well, let?s just say it’s bad in every way it can be bad,” the memo says. “Basically, the LAT no longer has a Washington bureau and we will be under the control of the Tribune Co., much like McClatchy is run. The much-touted 3-man committee was basically used to vote the LAT down 2-1 every time.”

The memo, which claims to have followed the author’s meeting with Times D.C. Bureau Chief Doyle McManus, adds that, “the formal announcement will be made on Nov. 7, people will be informed they will be laid off on the 18th, and the new bureau begins on the 19th. Numbers are still fudgey, but 8 LAT layoffs seems to be the working number.”

In addition, the memo states: “At the end of the session, Doyle basically put it simply: This was a well-orchestrated corporate campaign to sever the Washington bureau from the LAT. He appeared quite sheepish, since in hindsight this was all pretty clear…as he noted, Zell’s rant in Feb. has pretty much come true.”

The memo adds that McManus showed uncertainty about his own future, noting “Doyle doesn’t know who the new bureau chief will be, though Cissy Baker’s name keeps getting mentioned.”

It even provides a future bureau structure, claiming it will include 19 reporters & 5 editors as a core national staff; and 10 reporters as regional reporters, with two from the Times, two from the Chicago Tribune, two from the Baltimore Sun, and one from another small paper.

McManus responded to the memo with a note to Romenesko, which he posted on Saturday. It stated: “The October 31 memo gives a distorted and incomplete account of what I told our staff. In some cases, it attributes words to me that were actually uttered by others in the heat of a vigorous discussion. I did tell our staff that the new Tribune bureau in Washington will be a jointly-managed operation to serve all of Tribune?s newspaper, interactive and broadcast outlets — not only the Los Angeles Times. That has been clear for months, but I was worried that some of my colleagues weren?t getting the message.

“I said I believe the new Tribune Bureau will be fully capable of producing the kind of first-rate coverage that the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other Tribune bureaus now produce, and I urged skeptics among my colleagues to give the new organization the benefit of the doubt. And I said the leadership structure of the bureau (and, for that matter, its name) have not yet been determined. I regret that this internal discussion has been made public, especially in this distorted form.”

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