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Sun-Sentinel Monkey Business

Here's the latest missive from Tribune Co. owner Sam Zell to the troops at the Sun-Sentinel:

March 10, 2008 Why? Partners, I received an email from Bill Oakes at Chicago Magazine recently that included a memorable story, and he was kind enough to let me share it with you.

Picture a closed room with a bunch of bananas hanging from a hook, just out of reach of floor level. There is a step ladder underneath the bananas. Several monkeys are put in the room. Soon one of the monkeys eyes the bananas, and, exercising his developed thought processes, begins to climb the step ladder to get a banana. This action breaks the path of an electronic eye sensor, and immediately, an automated, high-pressure hose sends a powerful jet of cold water, knocking the monkey off the ladder and rolling him across the floor. All of the other monkeys are soaked in the process, and left cowering - cold, bewildered and submissive - in the corners of the room.

These monkeys are well fed and have swings and jungle gym equipment, but whenever one begins to climb the ladder for the bananas, the hose goes off, everyone gets wet, and they all are miserable. After several tries by different monkeys, the leader of the troop starts guarding the step ladder. When one of his troop approaches the ladder, the leader knocks the monkey across the room. The other monkeys watch closely, and are collectively pleased that they are not drenched.

Now, when any other monkey ventures toward the step ladder, his peers dissuade and threaten him. New monkeys coming into the room learn the house-rules quickly, and none attempt to reach for more than they are given.

Soon, the sensors, the hose and the troop leader are removed from the room. Still, whenever a monkey approaches the ladder, he is felled by his peers.


Because that’s the way it’s always been done.

My eyes glazed over half through the thing, so I'll let my anonymous source respond:

The jury is still out on a guy [Zell] calling for change change change while keeping many of the same monkeys in place. The following fable might be best read with a cast list from the Sun-Sentinel. Sharon Rosenhause, the Managing Editor, would be the angry enforcer monkey beating people off the ladder. Executive Editor Earl Maucker would be a nice, alluring money, just a few rungs up, telling the cowering simians that "My ladder's always open."

Publisher Apes Howard Greenberg and Bob Gremillion designed the high powered firehose system keeping the monkeys from reaching any bananas. I have to say, though, they've set up a nice jungle gym in our newsroom. Maybe instead of Marley and Me we should be filming Planet of the Apes.

You see? There is talent in that damn building.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman

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