Everybody I know at the Sun-Sentinel doesn't just expect another round of layoffs; they treat it as a done deal. Many are planning their futures around it. For good reason: Tribune Co.'s debt ($12.5 billion) is so massive and its revenues so tenuous that its very survival is in question as the credit crisis deepens.
If folks were looking for any assurance from Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell yesterday during his CNBC interview with Maria Bartiromo, they were sadly disappointed. I watched the interview and LA Observed did the work. Here's what Zell said when asked what he thought of those dire predictions:
Well, I think that anything is possibly true, and until something happens nothing is true. I think what these guys have given you are their opinions and I certainly can't tell you what the next period holds and whether in fact something like that may or may not happen. Tell me how difficult the economic conditions are going to be, tell me how much longer we're going to see the kind of advertising erosion we've seen and then I think I could give you a better analysis of the newspaper business.
Anything is possibly true ... nothing is true ... something like that may or may not happen ... My God, if this company was still public, gibberish like that would have sunk its stock 20 percent from whatever depressed level it was already at.
Zell is on a bad losing streak -- and you get the feeling it's not over yet. LA Observed also posts a passage from the company's annual report:
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If our cash flows and capital resources are insufficient to fund our debt service obligations, we will likely face increased pressure to reduce or delay capital expenditures, dispose of assets or operations, further reduce the size of our workforce, seek additional capital or restructure or refinance our indebtedness.
Well, that sucks. Who knew a possible depression could be so ... depressing?
On a more positive note, I was a guest speaker for a journalism class at Florida International University last night and found the class to be ... just like every other college class. A handful of students totally into it, the brunt of them mildly interested, and a few totally blank. Of the 30 or so students, two of them were interested in going into print journalism. I saluted their courage. But I also told them that it wasn't a bad time to get into journalism so long as they were willing to work (very) cheap. In fact, the next decade will be one of the most exciting -- and trying -- periods in the history of the business.
I just hope it's not too trying for those of us who remain.