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Media Giant Tribune Co. Files for Bankruptcy Protection

Media conglomerate Tribune Co. filed for federal bankruptcy protection Monday, as the owner of the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Cubs and several other newspapers and TV stations tries to restructure its debt of $13 billion. Three analysts discuss the company's future.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Today's bankruptcy filing by media giant Tribune is the latest cataclysm for an industry that finds itself with deepening troubles.

    The Chicago-based company owns media outlets around the nation: newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and Baltimore Sun; and television stations, such as cable super-station WGN. It also owns other properties, including the Chicago Cubs baseball team, which are not part of today's bankruptcy filing.

    Real estate mogul Sam Zell bought Tribune last year in a transaction that took the company private, but took on $13 billion in debt.

    In a memo to employees today, Zell called the company's troubles a perfect storm. "A precipitous decline in revenue and a tough economy," he wrote, "have coupled with a credit crisis, making it extremely difficult to support our debt. All of our major advertising categories have been dramatically impacted."

    The news about newspapers, already bleak, has continued to worsen even in recent days. Last week, the Rocky Mountain News, Colorado's oldest paper, was put up for sale after owner E.W. Scripps Company said it had lost about $11 million on the operation in the first nine months of this year.

    Also last week, Gannett, the largest U.S. newspaper publisher, began previously announced layoffs of about 10 percent of its workforce.

    And now the Miami Herald is reportedly for sale. The paper is owned by McClatchy, the third-largest newspaper chain, which has seen its stock price lose 90 percent of its value since 2006.

    And joining us now, Jon Fine, media columnist for BusinessWeek magazine; Karen Dunlap, president of the Poynter Institute, a training and professional development center for journalists; and James O'Shea, former editor of the Los Angeles Times and former managing editor of the Chicago Tribune.

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