The Office: Making It Work
Our Special Report on workplace issues ("Business@Work," Aug. 25 & Sept. 1), created in collaboration with our readers, drew comments that were as candid as the feedback we elicited when we polled 4,000 of you to identify the top problems at work—and their possible solutions. The wisdom-of-crowds approach prompted skepticism among some readers, who said they liked their advice to come from experts only. Others appreciated the voices raised from all those cubicles and corner offices. Still others weighed in on some of the topics we tackled: toxic bosses, bureaucracies, the generation gap at work, and ways to have a career and have a life.
Seems you were seduced by buzzwords like "collaboration," thinking some experimental interaction with the audience might translate into a worthy cover story. Not quite.
There is no useful off-the-shelf fix for what ails the work environment.... To the extent that most places are bureaucracies, most people are going to be dissatisfied most of the time.
I agree with the mantra of rewarding results over hours ("Count Results, Not Hours"). That said, I've worked in environments where assignments were handed out unevenly and some people could skate by on five hours of work a day. It comes down to good management. Trust me, you can't always count on that.
Screen name: BJR
I like the idea of raising the happiness quotient inside companies ("Glum Chums? Call in the Happiness Police"). But with those fun, one-off events, the happiness tends to wear off once the ice cream tubs are empty. What works well is combining these celebratory events with substantive recognition efforts that congratulate employees on an ongoing basis.
Screen name: Derek Irvine
Organizational culture has a lot to do with work-life balance ("How to Get a Life and Do Your Job"). Having gone from a company that almost demands the 24/7 working lifestyle to one where working beyond 5:30 p.m. is strictly frowned upon, I find the difference staggering. Which is better? I'd say I'm significantly more productive now.
Screen name: Aziz Musa
The main problem with my generation ("What's Eating Gen X?"): For years our parents preached company loyalty while counting on their pension funds. Then one day the pensions went away, job security went away, and mutual loyalty went away. This left us lost between what our parents told us to expect and reality.
Screen name: Uhuh
If Third Parties Could Buy Pension Plans
Although overly sensationalistic, "Wall Street Eyes the Pension Pot" (News, Aug. 18) highlights some key issues that would arise if companies with frozen pension plans were able to transfer responsibility for these plans to third parties.
Unfortunately, the article mischaracterizes my views. I have supported the concept of pension buyouts in appropriate, limited circumstances. I've never advocated or proposed that plans be allowed to be acquired by small, independent, undercapitalized, and unregulated entities.
To the contrary, I believe any acquirer must have substantial capital and be regulated at least under ERISA and federal securities laws. It should also employ lower-risk investment strategies than corporations typically do. Appropriately structured transactions that increase protections for participants and the federal insurance program should be encouraged; those that pose greater risks should not be allowed.
Palisades Capital Advisors
The article quotes Charles Millard as saying, "These deals should only be permitted when the acquiring entity has a higher credit rating than the seller." Now, who does the rating? S&P (MHP), Moody's (MCO), and Fitch? Aren't these the same firms that enabled the current credit crisis by slapping AAA ratings on junk debt? This sounds like a rerun of a really bad horror movie. I suppose I can write off my pension now.
Tribune Co.: We're Adapting to the Times
Your article about Tribune Co. and Sam Zell ("The 'Grave Dancer' Takes a Tumble," In Depth, Aug. 11) was a disappointing compilation of inaccuracies, half-truths, and incomplete reporting.
The article fails to provide any context to help readers understand the fundamental change the media industry is currently undergoing. Battered in the short term by a weak economy that has eroded real estate, employment, and automotive classified advertising and in the long term by advertising's migration to the Internet, newspapers are experiencing the worst downturn in decades.
As a result, Tribune and its peers have been forced to reduce expenses—and staff—inside and outside the newsroom. And yet, despite these reductions, Tribune still has the two largest local newsgathering organizations in the country—in Los Angeles and Chicago—and continues producing great journalism.
The story also didn't explain our strategy to fully leverage the content of our diverse media products—across print, broadcast, and the Internet—and to develop a new, sustainable business model for newspapers.
Finally, the article missed many of the positive things going on at Tribune.
We're building a streamlined, single-technology platform. It will ingest and process audio, video, photos, text, graphics, and other content and process it for dissemination to TV stations, printing plants, Web sites, PDAs, cell phones, and other devices.
Based on direct feedback from our readers, we are redesigning our papers to keep them relevant in a world of electronic consumption. We're also resizing them to better match user habits. We can't afford to print a two-hour read when consumers typically spend only 20 minutes with the paper.
In broadcasting, our local TV stations generally outperformed the industry in the first quarter (direct sales were up in almost all markets). We're launching or expanding local news in Chicago, Miami, San Diego, Denver, and elsewhere. Using inexpensive programming and unique promotions, we've relaunched our national cable channel, WGN America, which reaches 72 million homes and is getting record ratings.
Online, we're developing the platform and the creative programming to enable our Web sites to engage in more e-commerce and social networking. We're also moving into other methods of content delivery, such as the iPhone (AAPL) and the Kindle (AMZN).
There are many examples of change at Tribune—driven not just from the top, but from the thousands of employees who believe in this industry and, most importantly, in our company. We're moving more swiftly and transparently than others in the industry, so we're getting a disproportionate share of the media's attention. That's O.K., we can take it. But occasionally the claims are so egregious we have to set the record straight.