Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Motivate Me Too!!

Posted By Bob Daraio
Broadcast Union News

Tribune says they need a $70 million dollar executive bonus plan because "We must continue motivating our people to overcome obstacles, achieve our performance goals and take the company to the next level."

Apparently the handsome salaries Tribune executives receive just isn't enough to motivate them to provide their best efforts. It would be a lot cheaper to replace them with executives with a better work ethic.

In light of this, one wonders just how motivated Tribune management expects the writers at WPIX to be, given the zero percent (O %) raises they will be getting in each of the next two years as a result of recent collective bargaining.

Any idiot can bankrupt a company; it takes real genius to wreck a highly profitable one, and by the way Tribune is still a profitable company.

Tribune doesn’t report profit, but a Crain’s analysis of cash flow shows the company had an 8% profit margin for the first few months of the year, which, while less than half the 19% margin it boasted in the first half of 2008, still means Tribune took in $112 million dollars more than it cost to operate the company.

I'd love my bank and broker to be giving me an 8% profit on my money.

Perhaps 8% raises for everyone from top to bottom and an end to the massive layoffs and cutbacks might be a better use of $70 million dollars.

At the Tribune Company, Inquiring Union Minds Want to Know

by Michael Miner

The Tribune Company has always managed to keep the Newspaper Guild out of its newsroom, but some other papers in the far-flung Tribune empire haven't been so fortunate. And in Delaware, a federal bankruptcy judge just ruled that the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild must be told some of the details of the company's $70 million executive bonus plan.

The guild represents about 225 newsroom employees of the Baltimore Sun, where 61 journalists were laid off in April.

Earlier this month Tribune COO Randy Michaels wrote the court arguing for the bonuses. "Incentivizing employees is essential to Tribune's future success," he maintained. "We must continue motivating our people to overcome obstacles, achieve our performance goals and take the company to the next level."

The Newspaper Guild promptly wrote the court questioning the bankrupt company's incentivizaton theory. "The proposed bonuses to top executives are excessive and may, in fact, have a detrimental effect on motivating others who contribute to the bottom line," said the Guild. "Indeed, the payment of disproportionate bonuses to a select group of executives may have the opposite effect on the rank-and-file employees."

The arcane art of incentivation is based on the premise that the more money high level executives make, the more extra they need to be paid in order to take their jobs seriously. Rank-and-file workers have traditionally struggled to get their minds around this theory.

I think the court restricted the disclosure of the bonus setup to just the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. One would hope, however, that the Guild would then reveal what it learns to everyone.

Come to think of it, why shouldn't disclosure apply for all Tribune employees? After all, they own the place, don't they--albeit as 60 percent owners in thrall to creditors conveniently clamped to their backs by Sam Zell?

By the way, rank-and-filers have their own incentives, in the form of the constant threat of being laid off in a media environment in which journalistic skills have--and are increasingly unlikely ever again within our lifetimes to have--any market value.

At least, this is what we're constantly reminded of by media owners while they continue to rake in the profits that pay for the other, lavish, executive kind of incentive.

Of course, if they actually invested in their actually still-profitable products to actually compete aggressively in an expanding media environment, they might have to forgo the executive incentives for a short spell.

Then where would we be?

Goodness gracious, the papers:
Where the cash at? Where the stash at?*

Posted by Whet Moser on Wed, Aug 5, 2009 at 3:17 PM

Good news on the Trib bankruptcy front: the US bankruptcy trustee and three unions involved aren't going to roll over for corporate's blatantly offensive plan to reward themselves for actually doing the job that reasonable people who care about their colleagues expect of themselves as employees:

"At a time when media companies are suffering incomparable losses and struggling to survive, the Debtors have proposed spending $69.9 million to reward their top management for financial performance that, year-over-year, evidences declining fortunes," the union filing said. "While creditors face limited recovery on their claims and most rank-and-file employees live with frozen pay and benefits, the Debtors believe a proper exercise of business judgment results in millions of dollars distributed to management."

$70 million would go a long way towards more better content, which has the highest correlation to the bottom line, as Michael Miner reports.

* If you're curious why I'm so likely to use hip-hop in reference to certain stories, it's because, to steal an interpretation from one of my friends, the genre has developed a language to describe economic violence that's better than almost anything American culture has produced, save for perhaps gangster movies.

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