CNBC just reported that Sun-Sentinel parent Tribune Co. has just filed for bankruptcy.

How fast was that?

"It's one of the fastest bankruptcy filings on new issue of debt since Worldcom -- since Worldcom," answers one of the prettier talking heads on the network.

The good news is that at least the Tribune Co., which is saddled with about $13 billion in debt (the number rose today), broke the story via the its bedrock publication, the Chicago Tribune.

We don't know what's going to happen with the Sun-Sentinel, but we do know that it's a viable operation. I'd say it's safe to say Tribune would field offers. In Baltimore, there's a group of investors looking at the Tribune-owned Baltimore Sun. From

As media reports circulate that the Baltimore Sun's parent company could file bankruptcy this week, Ted Venetoulis said local investors are still interested in buying the newspaper. Sort of.

Venetoulis, who is leading the investment group, said the investors would need to figure out if the problems affecting the Sun and other papers is cyclical or permanent before striking any deal.

He also admitted that a lot has changed since Venetoulis and about 25 other investors first expressed interest in purchasing the newspaper in 2006. The economy has tanked. Car dealers and retailers -- stalwart newspaper advertisers -- are slashing advertising spending as they reel from sluggish consumer spending.

It's tough to get financing. And the chorus of naysayers who question the future of major metropolitan newspapers has grown louder.

The investment group's takeover of the paper hinges on two factors: Whether it can get a good price and whether newspapers will stick around, said Venetoulis, who declined to comment on the Tribune Co. bankruptcy reports until something is official.

"Troglodytes like me think there is still value in newspapers," said Venetoulis, 72.

Of course there's still value in newspapers. The $13 billion question is just how much?

Just as interesting as the company's future is its past. Greeley, Medill, Col. McCormick, Roeper ... these are just some of the names attached to the Chicago Tribune's 150-year history (I throw in the latter as only a bad attempt at a joke). The L.A. Times doesn't really count, since it was purchased by Tribune in 2000, but it's been around since 1881 and has a few names of its own Otis and Chandler. But it didn't begin very auspiciously:

Historian Kevin Starr lists Otis (with Henry E. Huntington and Moses Sherman) as a businessman "capable of manipulating the entire apparatus of politics and public opinion for his own enrichment." Otis's editorial policy was based on civic boosterism, extolling the virtues of Los Angeles and promoting its growth. Towards those ends, the paper supported efforts to expand the city's water supply by acquiring the watershed of the Owens Valley, an effort (highly) fictionalized in the Roman Polanski movie Chinatown which is also covered in California Water Wars.

Suddenly, I really feel like we are part of a new century.

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Bob Norman
Contact: Bob Norman