Trib’s checkered past

Recent events just another chapter in newsroom soap opera

The Tribune Co.’s current standoff with Los Angeles Times management over budget cuts is hardly its first showdown with a newsroom.

In the late 1980s, the largest Tribune-owned title was the New York Daily News, which despite bringing in revenue of around $425 million a year, was still losing $1 million a month.

Tribune wanted to cut jobs then, too. But the paper’s unions went out on strike in 1990 instead and the paper went on the block.

It ended up paying British publishing mogul Robert Maxwell $60 million in 1991 to take the money-losing tabloid off their hands, after he emerged as the employees’ choice.

But less than a year later, Maxwell died under mysterious circumstances when he fell off his yacht. He was later found out to be embezzling money from his companies, including the News. Theories of his death include that Mossad agents had him killed.

In the end, current owner Mort Zuckerman bought the News out of bankruptcy — but ended up firing nearly 200 people, mostly from the newsroom.

And, while Times editor Dean Baquet has turned to the pages of his own paper to press his cause against the Tribune Co., it’s hardly unprecedented for editors to take aim at the owners in their pages.

Around the same time as the Daily News strife, Gotham’s other tabloid, the New York Post, was being bounced around from owner to owner. In 1993, it ended up in the hands of parking lot magnate Abe Hirschfeld.

Though Pete Hamill had been fired by the new owner, he maintained control of the newsroom, putting a picture of Post founder Alexander Hamilton weeping on the front page. The lead story inside, about Hirschfeld, carried the headline, “Who is this nut?”

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