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US media empire files for bankruptcy -

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US media empire files for bankruptcy

The World Today - Tuesday, 9 December , 2008 12:30:00

ELEANOR HALL: One of the top media companies in the United States has filed for bankruptcy sending
shockwaves through the ranks of journalists and editors.

The Tribune, which owns flagship dailies like the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune as well as 23
television stations across the United States, has been hit by falling readership and bad business
decisions.

US political journalist and executive director of the Dart Center, Bruce Shapiro, says the collapse
of the Tribune is a worrying signal about the future of newspapers in the United States.

He spoke to Brigid Glanville

BRUCE SHAPIRO: This is an immensely important milestone in what has, in an ongoing crisis in
American media, and first of all just scale. Tribune Company owns two of the largest circulation in
most important daily newspapers in the country, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune.

The company owns 23 television stations and actually 12 newspapers all together. So this economic
crisis of Tribune Company really affects news consumers and newsrooms from coast to coast.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Has the Tribune Company filed for bankruptcy more because of bad management and
debt or because fewer people are reading newspapers?

BRUCE SHAPIRO: More the former, but a bit of the later as well. Tribune has its own particular
crisis; it was bought a year ago by a billionaire real estate guy named Samuel Zell who put himself
way into debt to do it and this is on top of a succession of mergers that created the Tribune
Company as it is today that have resulted in a kind of escalating debt. This is typical in the news
business, and there have been a lot of questions about Zell's management of the paper.

At the same time, not so much declining readership as declining advertising linage. This is an
economic crisis generally in the United States and in addition in the US as all over the world news
is being delivered in different ways and there's been a real fall in advertising revenues, both
from the classified side and from the display side.

And the big daily newspapers have not yet figured out how to compete economically in this new
environment.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Are the big American newspapers doing enough to compete to open up to go into new
media, to ensure readership, or do you think this is the beginning of the end of newspapers?

BRUCE SHAPIRO: Well I think that newspapers, newspaper companies are doing a lot there's a
tremendous amount of innovation being driven by newspapers like the New York Times and some of the
Tribunes papers. The question is whether the big institutional model of the newsroom which was
created in the 19th century is based on the idea of news as an industry with a physical plant
that's based on advertising sales with a particular revenue model will survive.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: Will the Tribune survive this? Will someone else come in and buy it?

BRUCE SHAPIRO: Bankruptcy protection is designed to let companies reorganise and get themselves out
of debt or find buyers. My suspicion is that someone out there will eventually aquire it. The
problem is that the credit market right now is so tight that even people who would be inclined to
make the slightly insane decision to buy a big newspaper company are going to have a hard time
finding the money to do it.

BRIGID GLANVILLE: What do you think the editors of the other big metropolitan dailies in the United
States is saying this evening looking at the Tribune filing for bankruptcy?

BRUCE SHAPIRO: With few exceptions and there are exceptions to this, they're all sweating and
wondering if they are next.

ELEANOR HALL: Bruce Shapiro a US based journalist and executive director of the Dart Center in
Chicago speaking to Brigid Glanville.