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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

The Chicago Tribune, along with the entire Tribune Company, has just come out of bankruptcy. (PHOTO: shutterstock.com )

Tribune evolution could take media back to its roots


As our economy continues to evolve, as do our ways of consuming information, so too must media corporations change and adapt to stay relevant.

The Tribune Company, the owner of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and six other daily newspapers, has just come out of bankruptcy.

The Tribune Company, much like other major corporations, has far-reaching ownership in a number of properties beyond their presses and the employees that kept them rolling. Tribune owns 23 TV stations, digital interests like CareerBuilder and cable channels like the Food Network.

Now, as the owners try to recoup losses from previous investment and the fallout of Sam Zell's failed takeover, most of these assets will be sold off.

The question will be who gains ownership of the pieces and how will the media outlets be run. If another corporation picks up parts, will leadership simply weave the properties into their current corporate culture? Or, perhaps, will the sites be reflective of the communities that they serve and evolve and change in a way to serve information and commercial messages in a way to be both profitable and serve a higher purpose?

Closer to home, the media corporations that hold onto the outlets in our market continue to evolve and change in their own ways. Journal Communications based in Milwaukee has more holdings than just the AM and FM radio stations, WTMJ-TV and the newspaper. The corporation has a number of TV and radio stations in different markets.

Hearst is the parent company of WISN-TV, while Sinclair has both CW 18 and My 24 and WITI-TV Fox 6 is owned by Local TV LLC, part of the private equity firm Oak Hill Capital Partners. Weigel Broadcasting is the parent owner of WDJT-TV Ch. 58, and Clear Channel and Entercom both hold ownership of a number of radio groups in the area.

This list isn't all-inclusive, however, I can say that the list is smaller than it would have been had I pulled it together 30 years ago. That illustrates the changing industry, in which fewer stake holders have ownership of entertainment and information sources. With the breakup of the Tribune properties, maybe it will take media ownership back to its roots with more people involved.

LIVE FROM NEW YORK: ABC New Year's programming ruled the evening, with Ryan Seacrest and crew pulling in 13.3 million viewers according to the overnight ratings. NBC finished in second place in the nation-wide ratings, with Carson Daily hosting the special from New York's Times Square. CBS stayed out of the special programming and went with series reruns in primetime and FOX brought in a half of a rating point among the 18-49 demographic for its broadcast originating from Las Vegas.

Proving that she can do anything, Kathy Griffin stooped down to kiss Anderson Cooper's privates while hosting CNN's broadcast from Times Square. Cooper, when back from a report from Eastport, Maine, where the tradition is to kiss an 8-foot sardine after it has dropped from the top of a building, asked Griffin what she was doing.

Cooper asked Griffin if she dropped something, and she responded, "No, I was kissing your sardine."

PREDICTIONS: As we embark on the New Year, it is always fun to look ahead to see what's over the next horizon. I always enjoy getting the insight from local talk radio hosts, as they have to have a pulse on what is going on in our community in order to be able to talk about it every day.

WTMJ-AM 620's Jeff Wagner offers his predictions for 2013 here. I may not agree with all of what he has written, but he has a pretty good track record in recent years.

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