By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Oct 08, 2010 at 11:00 AM
Watch Tim Cuprisin's On Media on Time Warner Cable's Wisconsin on Demand Channel 411, with new episodes posted Fridays.

In the three years since non-newspaper guy Sam Zell took control of the Chicago Tribune and its various properties, he's been the target of serious journalism types shocked that a holy institution had been violated by outsiders.

The latest is a front-page rip in The New York Times headlined "At Debt-Ridden Tribune, a Culture Run Amok."

The tone of David Carr's piece is set in the third paragraph focusing on Randy Michaels, the radio exec Zell hired to run the day-to-day operation. According to Carr,  "two people at the bar that night" say Michaels offered a waitress $100 to show her breasts.

While the Tribune story continues inside Wednesday's Times with lots more real news (taking up nearly two inside pages of the print version of the paper) it's that titillating tidbit that sets the tone. You know even The New York Times has readers who don't turn the page and read the rest of the story.

Michaels denied that incident in a statement, and sent a memo to employees to "ignore the noise" of the Times story.

It's also important to note that the New York Times is trying to compete with the Tribune by carrying stories and columns from some former Trib writers.

I'm not going to defend a lot of what's happened to the Tribune. But Zell and his crew were damned from the start by members of the journalistic priesthood.

I've heard from some of my more sanctimonious colleagues over the years, folks unwilling to accept the fact that their sacred profession was drying up, thanks to declining circulation and advertising.

Zell brought in people to shake up a stodgy establishment. It was just a few years ago that the Trib still called itself the "world's greatest newspaper," a slogan reflected in the call letters of the company's WGN-AM (720), which has indeed been messed with by a new management looking for a younger audience.

The Trib's image is nothing new. Go back to 1928's "Front Page" for the arrogant priss of a Tribune reporter Roy V. Bensinger (portrayed hilariously in the 1931 film version by Edward Everett Horton.)

Frankly, the Tribune needed a shock. But it, like the rest of the newspaper industry, didn't anticipate the shocks that hit circulation and advertising, thanks to that nasty internet and the general economic mess in the country.

The combined problems have hit the Trib hard, but there are still lots of talented reporters cranking out good stories at the Tribune. Media reporter Phil Rosenthal is one of them, in the impossible situation of trying to cover his own company.

I don't envy him.

On TV: You'll have less of a Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon next year, with the annual Labor Day weekend televent cut to six hours. The news release announcing the change barely mentions Jerry Lewis, although it's not clear if his role is changing. Lewis' smiling mug remains atop the Web site.

  • FX has picked up "Sons of Anarchy" for a fourth season.
  • Syfy says "Haven" will be back for a second 13-episode season next summer.
  • Bob Newhart tells that he and pal Don Rickles are talking about a return to TV. How 'bout team-hosting "Saturday Night Live"? Newhart says new SNL cast member Paul Brittain is his nephew.
  • TCM marks the passing of Tony Curtis with a Sunday full of his movies, starting at 5 a.m. with 1954's "Beachhead" and ending at 3:15 a.m. the following night with 1967's "Don't Make Waves." Here's the entire schedule.

Three grooms for three sisters: Three daughters of St. Norbert College president Thomas Kunkel are all getting married in De Pere this weekend.

CBS' "Early Show thought the triple marriage was a worth a segment, and here's the video:



Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.