Newspaper Staff Ordered To "Question Authority"
The good John DeGroot got ahold of the new Tribune Co. employee handbook -- and it doesn't disappoint. The rules were recently sent via PDF to all Tribune employees, including those at the Sun-Sentinel (and Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, and other newspapers, TV stations, etc, the company owns).
In it, new owner Sam Zell demands that employees question authority, take risk, "play to win," and embrace a "loose, fun, non-linear atmosphere." In other words, it's more of the Zell revolution at work (for more, check out the comments in a post below regarding Zell's first visit to the Sun-Sentinel last week).
Here's how DeGroot, who used to be the Sentinel's writing coach, breaks down the highlights:
- Employees are asked to “Question Authority” in Rule 8 which notes, “You are encouraged to ask your manager, supervisor, business unit head or anyone in Corporate, any question you have regarding the business. Question authority and push back if you do not like the answer. You will earn respect and not get into trouble for asking tough questions.” -- Under “Harassment Policy (Sexual & Otherwise”, Rule 4.1 states: “Working at Tribune means accepting a creative, quirky, intelligent, odd, humorous, diverse, opinionated and sometimes annoying atmosphere.”
-- Further, Rule 4.2 states: “Working at Tribune means accepting that sometimes you might hear a word that you, personally, might not use. You might experience an attitude that you don’t share. You might hear a joke that you might not consider funny. That is because loose, fun, non-linear atmosphere is important to the creative process. This should be understood, should not be a surpise and is not considered harassment.”
-- Rule 6 dares to simply state: “Have fun and treat each other with respect.”
-- Finally, my favorite part of this stunning document – which will govern the workings of the Zell-Sentinel: “'Because it’s always been done that way,’ and ‘because it’s a rule’ and 'because I say' so aren’t reasons for doing anything unless you’ve thought about it and it makes sense. There are many old rules and regulations and handbooks and manuals that will no longer be relevant to those working at the Tribune Company of today and the future. As we replace those, we consider this (handbook) a fresh start."
My God, it sounds like Zell and Michaels actually expect the reporters to be groundbreaking journalists rather than stenographers. My own personal favorite is Zell-Michael's "drug policy":
7.1. If you use or abuse alcohol or drugs and fail to perform the duties required by your job acceptably, you are likely to be terminated. ... Coming to work drunk is bad judgment.
7.2. If you do not use or abuse alcohol or drugs and fail to perform the duties required by your job acceptably, you are likely to be terminated.
Now that's funny, drunk or sober. Of course, it's not all fun and games. Take rule 1.2: "At-will employment means that either Tribune and/or you can terminate employment at any time for any legal reason, with or without cause."
The entire handbook (sans the dull stuff about medical leave, etc) is reprinted after the jump:
Rule #1: Use your best judgment.
Rule #2: See Rule 1.
That’s it. That is the one hard and fast rule. Unless a serious mistake was made when you were hired, you have pretty good judgment.
You know what it takes to succeed.
You know that honesty, reliability, commitment, teamwork, and personal responsibility are essential to superior performance.
Tribune is a formidable and historically rich company. Rather than be mired in the history, we prefer to build upon that heritage by reinventing and adapting ourselves to the realities of today. Essentially, as of December 20, 2007, Tribune Company is a new company. Therefore, it’s fair to give you some help understanding the culture we will be creating together, and how your judgment will be judged.
We’ll give you a few guidelines and examples to help you understand our company focus, and to help you understand some of the rules and policies created by the FCC, IRS and other government agencies, branches and bureaus. However well or poorly formulated some of their rules might be, it’s bad judgment to break rules that will get us in trouble.
Clearly, we need rules to live in a civilized society. But rules can be tricky. Sometimes rules serve an obvious purpose and seem to apply in any situation. Situations not contemplated when rules were made occur.
An example is a recent convention in Washington, D. C. A large group wanted an exception to a rule requiring a team of paramedics to be on duty. Such a rule seems like a pretty good idea, but this was a convention of the world’s leading medical doctors. In this case, a team of paramedics was just a needless expense, but it was required not because it made sense but because it was “The Rule.” The doctors did not get an exemption.
“Because it’s always been done that way” and “because it’s a rule” and “because I said so” aren’t reasons for doing anything unless you’ve thought about it and it makes sense. There are many old rules and regulations and handbooks and manuals that will no longer be relevant to those working at the Tribune Company of today and the future. As we replace those, we consider this a fresh start. Use Rule #1 as your primary guideline for how we behave, and for every decision we make.
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TRIBUNE COMPANY CORE VALUES
1. KEEP YOUR WORD. If we commit to a viewer or a vendor, a customer or competitor, we keep our word. Especially to each other. So use your best judgment when giving your word, because the expectation is that you will keep it.
2. COLLABORATE. We help each other out. We do what needs to be done, even if “it’s not our job.” We cooperate with competitors to improve our industry. We work together to grow revenue in the market and the industry. We have the backs of our teammates and we find solutions instead of placing blame.
3. NO SURPRISES. If something isn’t going according to plan, communicate it before it’s “discovered.” Show this respect to your supervisors and expect it from your subordinates. Problems are often less problematic when more people are working on the solution. Secrets make you lonely, and keeping them shows very poor judgment.
4. COMPETE. Play to win. Market shares add to 100%. We can’t grow our share of revenue or audience unless someone else’s goes down.
5. PLAY FAIR. But remember that there is nothing unfair about taking advantage of a competitor’s weakness. It’s not unfair to scoop a competitor on a big story or closet them on a key account. Not playing to win is unfair to your teammates and to all of the company’s stakeholders.
6. TAKE INTELLIGENT RISK. We are in a period of accelerating change. The riskiest thing you can do is nothing. Doing something just because that is the way it has always been done is only acceptable if you can stop time.
7. REWARD SUCCESSFUL PERFORMANCE. Successful performance should result in bonuses and promotions. Working hard is not the same as being successful. Life isn’t always fair. Luck and timing have a great deal to do with success, but over time, rewarding successful performance is the right thing.
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8. QUESTION AUTHORITY. In transforming Tribune, you are encouraged to ask your manager, supervisor, business unit head or anyone in Corporate, any question you have regarding the business. Question authority and push back if you do not like the answer. You will earn respect, and not get into trouble for asking tough questions. Remember, you are an employee owner. You have the right and obligation to ask questions.
9. SERVE OUR LOCAL COMMUNITIES. We take our obligation to serve the public interest, need, and convenience seriously. While much of our programming and content is light entertainment, we are committed to serving our communities. When bad weather keeps most inside and away from their jobs, we have a particular obligation to go to work. Emergencies and disasters are times for “all hands on deck.” If this commitment is not in your DNA, Tribune Company may be the wrong place for you. This commitment goes far beyond slogans and marketing. It means that we will do what we can to bond with the audiences who watch, listen to and read the products we deliver and depend on us to provide information and entertainment. It is imperative that we do all we can to make sure they can count on us when being accurately informed is most important. We cannot control the output of networks and syndicators. We are in complete control of how we serve our audience. Nothing short of superlative performance in this area will do.
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1. AT-WILL EMPLOYMENT
1.1. Employment with Tribune is at-will unless this relationship has been modified by the specific terms of a contract that’s been signed by you and by an authorized representative of the company, or by a collective bargaining agreement.
1.2. At-will employment means that either Tribune and/or you can terminate employment at any time for any legal reason, with or without cause.
2. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY STATEMENT
2.1. Tribune is an equal opportunity employer.
2.2. Tribune wants the best people to work for the company.
2.3. Tribune encourages creativity, productivity, intelligence, and a great attitude.
2.4. The company intends to actively discriminate based on job performance, ability and attitude.
2.5. Discrimination based on gender, age, race, religion, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, disability, or any other characteristic not related to performance, ability or attitude, protected by federal or state law, or not protected (such as inability to tell a joke, the occasional poor wardrobe choice or bad hair day), is strictly prohibited.
3. DISABILITY STATEMENT
3.1. Tribune will make reasonable accommodations if you have a disability and are otherwise qualified to perform your job.
3.2. If you need an accommodation, tell your supervisor.
4. HARASSMENT POLICY (SEXUAL & OTHERWISE)
4.1.Working at Tribune means accepting a creative, quirky, intelligent, odd, humorous, diverse, opinionated and sometimes annoying atmosphere.
4.2. Working at Tribune means accepting that sometimes you might hear a word that you, personally, might not use. You might experience an attitude
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that you don’t share. You might hear a joke that you might not consider funny. That is because a loose, fun, non-linear atmosphere is important to the creative process.
4.3. This should be understood, should not be a surprise and is not considered harassment.
4.4. Harassment means being told that a raise, promotion or other benefit is dependent on you going on a date with your boss or some other similar activity.
4.5. Making the building too hot, banging on trash can lids or loud bagpipe music are annoyances you can complain about, but this policy is about harassment on the basis of protected characteristics. It’s really bad judgment to intimidate, persistently annoy, inappropriately touch, treat people differently because of their protected characteristics, or otherwise make members of our team uncomfortable, no matter how you do it.
4.6. Some people don’t know the line between lighthearted fun and annoying behavior. If you experience what you believe to be harassment of any kind SPEAK UP!
4.6.1. If you feel comfortable
4.6.2. If that doesn’t work, take the issue to your supervisor.
4.6.3. If the situation is still not resolved in an appropriate manner, go to Human Resources or any manager or director of the company.
4.6.4. Should the problem continue, or if you are uncomfortable with speaking with someone at your location, call any of the people identified in Section 21.
4.6.5. Tribune will do all it can to make sure your concerns are addressed appropriately, and we’ll make sure no one retaliates against you for speaking up.
5. PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS
5.1. Under Rule #1, you may want to think twice before you enter into an intimate relationship with a co-worker. When you start, it might seem like a good idea. It’s when you stop, or the wrong people find out (and they will) that you could discover that perhaps it wasn’t.
6. INTERPERSONAL CONTACT, IN GENERAL
6.1.Have fun and treat each other with respect. This falls under Rule #1.
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7. DRUG POLICY
7.1. If you use or abuse alcohol or drugs and fail to perform the duties required by your job acceptably, you are likely to be terminated. See Rule 1. Coming to work drunk is bad judgment.
7.2. If you do not use or abuse alcohol or drugs and fail to perform the duties required by your job acceptably, you are likely to be terminated.
7.3. If government rules and regulations say that drug testing is a condition of holding your job, Tribune is obliged to follow the law and your manager/supervisor will provide you with details.
8. CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
8.1. You should know that you have a duty to be loyal to your team.
8.1.1. This means not intentionally taking actions that might hurt your team and not helping someone who is competing with your team.
8.1.2. It’s fine to collaborate with competitors to improve our industry or to serve our communities.
8.1.3. It is not fine to help our competitors increase their performance or their revenue in any way that might hurt ours.
8.1.4. Being loyal to your team also means you shouldn’t have personal or business dealings that make it difficult to do your job objectively. If you aren’t sure whether something you or a close family member is involved in causes a problem, you should let company management know about it.
8.1.5. It also means you shouldn’t take for yourself an opportunity that you learn about because of your job unless you get the okay from company management.
8.1.6. Being loyal also means that you protect the company’s assets, including our intellectual property.
8.2.1. An obvious conflict of interest is taking anything of value that does not come through the company to promote a commercial venture or product.
8.2.2. The FCC rules prohibit accepting consideration for material aired by licensed media without disclosing the sponsor.
8.2.3. Violating those rules is bad judgment.
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9.1. Tribune will abide by all federal, state and local laws as they apply to the safety, training, health and well-being of our employees.
9.2. Your supervisor will tell you about any safety regulations that specifically apply to your job.
9.3. If at any time you believe your personal safety is in jeopardy, please notify your supervisor immediately. See Rule #1.