Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ex-Tribune Editor Recalls ‘Pressure’ From Sam Zell

By Robert Feder
Robservations on the media beat

Overshadowed by the frat house hijinks detailed in David Carr’s New York Times opus on Tribune Co. last week was a potentially more damaging allegation — that owner Sam Zell tried to use the Chicago Tribune to benefit his other business interests.

Former editor Ann Marie Lipinski recalled a June 2008 meeting at which the billionaire mogul told her the newspaper should be harder on then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. (“Don’t be a pussy,” she quoted Zell saying. “You can always be harder on him.”) Later that day, she learned that Zell was negotiating to sell Wrigley Field to the state sports authority. Lipinski quit the following month. “It was hard to avoid the conclusion that he was trying to use the newspaper to put pressure on Blagojevich,” said Lipinski, who’s now a vice president at the University of Chicago.

Though current Tribsters deny any influence from Zell, Capitol Fax editor Rich Miller isn’t buying it. “It’s just ridiculous,” he says. “When are they ever going to come clean on this?”

Robert Feder has been keeping tabs on the media in Chicago for 30 years. A lifelong Chicagoan and graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, he was television and radio columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. At age 14, he founded the first and only Walter Cronkite Fan Club.

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