I wrote the Lou Grant column in the chitowndailynews.org for two years. Prior to that I wrote as Michael Langdon for the Chicago Media Examiner… More »


I'm without a column!

Updated on October 2, 2009 at 12:08 PM

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Re: “A Reader columnist goes RedPlum crazy

DeBartolo: "Local Values" stretches the meaning of the word. Vlassis isn't selling coupons to the local restaurant with one outlet.

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Lou Grant on 05/30/2013 at 11:37 AM

Re: “A Reader columnist goes RedPlum crazy

Michael Miner, it isn't Amy Little who is destroying newspapers with her suit. It is you!
Let's think through what happened with MM's complaint.

A Tribune Co. rep 'personally' interceded. That doesn't mean that that person went out to check on the delivery, but that they called one of the minions who are already overworked and they screamed at them. I'm sure the conversation went something like "you'll verify that Miner no longer receives Red Plum."
It's hard to verify a negative. And let's say MM receives a RP, given the 'human error' factor. (who is to say a delivery person didn't wander from say Paulina to Hermitage and throw their trash accidentally to that street? There seems to be no system here)
Now the Chicago Tribune person (not the carrier note) who should be trying to build sales is instead spending a few hours on Paulina (or whatever street MM lives on) trying to verify that no RPs are delivered to MM's home.
But wait, there's a woman in an LSD high rise who will not give the carrier a key and swears that the carrier isn't delivering the paper. God knows her fellow tenants wouldn't steal HER paper, that she picks up every day promptly at 1PM. That delivery rep has to assure that person of her delivery too as the rep was the recipient of a scream on that too. Hard to do since the rep has been up since 4AM watching MM's Paulina address.
Meanwhile, sales slump. And slump. And slump. Because these two deliveries have taken more of the reps time and energy than trying to find a new outlet for the sales of the paper (and the NYT, the CST, the FT and on and on).

Whose fault is this? Michael Miner's... with an assist from the crazy lady on Lake Shore Drive who insists the paper will stay in her hall till 1PM.

Michael, take a bow. The trolls on the column are right about you!

To others, such as Amy Little, the carriers are literate. They understand route lists. They deliver off them every day. It is the fault of the managers who created a system that doesn't produce and update weekly skip lists. They created a system that doesn't work. And they were probably rewarded for their version of hell for the property owner. It is time for them to go.

5 likes, 3 dislikes
Posted by Lou Grant on 05/30/2013 at 11:34 AM

Re: “Red Plum forever! Whether Tribune subscribers like it or not.

Greg Mansfield:

1 You are arguing that these products, which meet the definition of litter in a practical sense, if not a legal sense, are the responsibility of the property owner who is victimized by the Tribune. In your world property owners should quietly labor to clean up the litter and the damage (to flowers, plants, glass and doors).

2 That the public, the victim of litter, should agree to continue to receive the litter because receiving the litter leads to a better good: the continuation of the home delivery of newspapers. Unsaid here is the idea that the profits, if any, from this effort are plowed back into the Chicago Tribune. I sense you believe that delivery of the physical product is associated with editorial effort too.

3 That the Tribune is not responsible for this litter. First, how can a company be responsible for its actions? Second, in this era of computerization it is nearly impossible for the Tribune to develop a 'do-not-deliver' list. We could call it a 'skip' list instead: Skip these addresses on this block. It is very complicated to create such a list, think of the technical issues. They'd need to create a software type program based on a database that would be updated on a regular basis. Oh! Wait. They have that. That's what circulation departments do in reverse every morning.

4 That this effort is saving the hundreds of distributors from financial ruin.

I'll only address myself to the final question. What is killing the distributors?

Actually they are not distributors. They are referred to as agents. But the lawyer nabobs don't even want Tribune managers to use that term. In fact, they are captured businesses that owe their existence to the Tribune and cease to exist when the Tribune terminates their agreement.

Could part of the reason these 'agents' are disappearing is that there hasn't been an increase in the distribution rate in about a decade or more? Yes Greg, every time a product is added the rates are adjusted down to reflect the 'increased profits' that could materialize from working harder. The result is these poor souls never build a business, work harder and harder and continue to earn about the same year after year.

I don't believe they are disappearing. I believe the Tribune operations department is able to locate other persons to undertake life as a distributor. Let's see, deliver multiple products with many different schedules seven days a week, 365 days a year, two deliveries on Saturday and don't forget to collect money from stores and 'honor boxes' and deliver Red Plum, Local Values and Fin de la Semana. Also, be prepared to deal with customers complaints.

Your disappearing distributor? That's who they are going to blame for this screw-up. It won't be the sorry bunch that refused to put the resources necessary to create a skip list together. They'll get bonuses.

6 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Lou Grant on 05/21/2013 at 5:50 PM

Re: “Red Plum/Local Values, the ad rag that keeps coming

Dear Rob Conrad,

I live in the same neighborhood as Mr. Miner and I have called the Philipines repeatedly, I have talked to the delivery person and I've talked to the circulation manager responsible for this bullshit litter.

For the record, the manager, as of the last time I called, was named Gerry or Jerry Maros. If that is still the manager, his email would be either GMaros@Tribune.com or JMaros@Tribune.com.

Nothing, nothing seems to work to stop this litter.

But maybe you can reach Maros or whatever functionary is currently responsible. Good luck!

2 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Lou Grant on 05/15/2013 at 3:01 PM

Re: “$180 Million Is Not Chump Change If You've Got to Give It Back


You are right. I wrote with anger about a subject that I am personally involved in. Since Michael posted this PDF I have discovered how angry I am at the treatment my employees and I received at the hands of these beneficiaries.

I won't drill into the details, but see amounts similar to savings I provided some of these people before I was sacked. So, where did the savings I fought to achieve go?

Now that I've exercised my full transparency, may I please get back to being angry?

Posted by Lou Grant on 12/23/2010 at 10:35 AM

Re: “$180 Million Is Not Chump Change If You've Got to Give It Back

I'm trying to remember the key details. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

Zell put up about $315M cash and then the company paid out $180M cash to the people who engineered this deal and took on debt to buy out the equity of the $handlers, the McCormick Foundation, the McCormick family and the public. That amounted to about $8.2B of debt if I remember correctly.

Within a year Zell decides to call it a bankruptcy. Since then the TribCo has been approved to pay bonuses equaling $97M.

The reasons for those bonuses paid from a bankrupt company: the people might leave! God knows that in a market seeing major cuts in newspaper employment and significant unemployment everywhere people who can engineer a deal like this are always in demand. So, to keep them aboard the company pays them bonuses.

Zell, who also famously told his "partners" if the deal fails he won't be harmed, considers lining up as a creditor to regain his money.

Now if we add the cost of filing bankruptcy ($138M by March, 2010 according to one Chicago Tribune article) and the interest cost of the $8.2B for about one year (let's guess about $500M.) We are looking at the fact that the people who enjoyed this bonus and the three bonuses after it managed to have the company lose $600M in assets just due to these factors. Plus the owner equity (i.e., the ESOP) is worthless.

I'm going to guess again on this one: That's about $1M each for these beautiful people.

Posted by Lou Grant on 12/17/2010 at 7:30 PM

Re: “"On the first day of unemployment . . . "

I nominate MrJM's comment as the comment of the year!

Posted by Lou Grant on 12/17/2010 at 7:49 AM

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