Sun-Sentinel To 'Improver The Spirit' and Become 'Disneyland for the Mind'

The question is: Will it have the Dumbo ride?

New Tribune Co. "Chief Innovation Officer" Lee Abrams will have to answer that question. His introductory e-mail to his new minions at the Sun-Sentinel, L.A. Times, and other outlets owned by the media conglomerate is one of the most extraordinary corporate documents I've ever seen.

He says he wants the company to have soul because, "historically, the great companies had Soul." Yes, sure, like Standard Oil and General Motors. Veritable soul machines, those two.

He says that it's "best to be brilliantly good, or SO bad, it’s engaging." Yes, but why bring Fox News into this?

He admits that he's I am an "economic dunce," but says he's heard the "buzz" about cutbacks, fear, and paranoia in the marketplace (and he wrote this before the Bears Stearns bailout this morning). "Hey," he writes, "that's part of the reality for survival."

The reality for survival. How deep is that?

Here's one of my favorite passages:

We need to have such an impact on the imagination that people dream about us. Sounds spacy and obscure? It is. But once we impact the theater of the mind that lives in everyone’s head, with Internet, Print and TV…we have touched people on a level that they need and want to be touched…but outside of a Star Wars epic, media hasn’t done in years.

Which newspaper was it that made Star Wars again? I can't remember.

This is awesome, especially for any media blog in a Tribune city.

Click on the jump to read the entire text and the long string of quotes (led off by Machiavelli) that Abrams shared with his band of artists. He says that instead of reading about the "doom and gloom" to read the quotes, his version of "don't worry, be happy." Also check out his blog, which you can investigate to determine if the man is actually clinically insane. If nothing else, he'll never be able to credibly criticize anyone for writing too long.

Please forgive this rambling introduction letter, but I am ecstatic with no-bullshit excitement and pride in joining Tribune Company. Please forgive this rambling introduction letter, but I am ecstatic with no-bullshit excitement and pride in joining The Tribune Company.

While my background is in steeped in “Rock n Roll”, I strongly believe that News and Information is the NEW Rock n Roll. Imagine it’s 1952. Music has existed for centuries and part of the fabric of our culture. While music was a hotbed of activity in the Black community, in mainstream America we were in a blasé era of Mitch Miller and Patty Page. Then-Rock n Roll! It had a street level connection to the Post War American Spirit. Tapped into the pulse of the American way of thinking. It was based on: imagination, looking FORWARD, respecting but not praying to the musical playbook, moved fast…met the rhythm of America, worked at innovating-it was a mission to come up with the next cool thing, revolutionized the ‘look’ of people, etc… Now fast forward to 2008, News and Information has been around since the dawn of Man, but it’s a lot like where music was in 1952: Poised for a dynamic breakthrough that re-invest the media. The NEW Rock n Roll isn’t about Elvis or James Dean, but it IS about re-inventing media with the exact same moxie that the fathers of Rock n Roll had. The Tribune has the choice of doing to News/Information/Entertainment what Rock n Roll did to music…to be the Ray Charles, Dylan’s, Beatles and U2’s of the Information age…or have someone else figure it out, or worse, let these American institutions disappear into irrelevancy. I think Rock n Roll is the best choice. America needs a heartbeat, and we can deliver that on 21st Century terms. Rock n Roll musically is behind us. NEWS & INFORMATION IS THE NEW ROCK N ROLL

One thing that drives me nuts is Pop Culture’s evil cousin that I call Junk Culture. Terrorists don’t scare me…a dumb America is frightening. On a very personal level, it is important to me that I help Tribune fight ‘junk culture’. Smart re-invention that enlightens. Websites can be Disneyland for the mind; TV stations (especially news) can put the Kent Brockman cliché to rest and create a visual experience that intoxicates with brilliance and freshness; And Newspapers! We owe it to our culture to make sure they thrive…We can make America smarter. Not more elite…just smarter.

I realize I have a history in radio, but that’s behind me, nonetheless there’s a great radio analogy. In 1954 Radio was proclaimed dead. In fact, you can take stories from back then about radio’s death and substitute the word newspaper and you have 99% of the articles written today suggesting Newspapers impending death. Well, a couple of guys threw out the Arthur Godfrey playbook invented Top 40 Radio. Guess what. Radio went into a NEW golden age…bigger than ever…the soundtrack of the streets. TV? It got bigger and bigger. My point: Yes, the Internet is huge competition, but there’s NO reason we can’t create the equivalent of Top 40…Not a hyper teen thing. But something that has the same dramatic impact across all demographics and lifestyles. It’s doable.

Soul. I hope I can bring that out in us. Soul is something that big companies rarely have. And having it not only improvers the spirit, but it’s a competitive advantage. Most media companies are soul-less. If we have Soul, we have a dramatic intangible advantage. Historically, the great companies had Soul. In the modern era, they do not. You know the ones that do. Those companies have FANS not just users.

Art. How unfashionable in today’s bottom line World. But we need to be artists. Media Artists. A great artist delivers something that lasts and touches people. If we approach EVERYTHING from mail delivery in the building to breaking stories with an artist Point of View, we will create lasting change. Artists create Quality. Quality lasts. Art enriches lives. We can/will re-define the art of brilliant media.

The economics. I am an economic dunce. My old company would give me free vacation days during budget season so I’d stay out of the process. I know the “buzz” is cutbacks, fear, paranoia etc…Hey—-that’s part of the reality for survival. But I hope to encourage revenue growth in a different way. Simply put-If Tribune properties turn users into fans and we make intelligent moves to significantly (and dramatically) increase circulation and viewership, the revenue WILL skyrocket. That I know.

But I’ve also witnessed creative people being beaten up by the financial realities to the point where it’s taken their eye off the future and are operating under fear and nostalgia. How about channeling the fear into writing the future. Everyone will win…emotionally, creatively and economically.

Speaking of intelligent moves, that’s what change is all about. Intelligent. Whoever buys Wrigley Field would be foolish to tear down the Ivy…There’s Ivy at Tribune media properties. But then again, there’s opportunity. For all of you Baseball historians, we need some Bill Veeck magic (Check the archives) in the Company. He’s the guy that put up the Ivy in the first place…and created thousands of innovations that helped take “Baseball is dead. its an NFL World” to record attendance. Eccentric All The Way to the Bank.

If we can morph the Soul of Dylan…with the innovation of Apple and the eccentric-all-the-way-to-the-bank of Bill Veeck, the WORLD will be a better place. WE have that opportunity.

PASSION, CHARACTER AND MUSCLE: Passion is just that. Like Soul and Art-intangibles that Joe Media Executive doesn’t “get”, but are secret weapons in the mission of enlightening people with our content. Character is the need to LIVE outside the envelope (cliché-sorry). And Muscle is what we have. This company is bad ass big — channeled right, that muscle can change the world!

Creative Batting Average. I hope to bat 400. That’s where of every 100 ideas I feed you, 40 are usable. But MORE importantly, I hope to raise YOUR creative batting average, with the goal being a COMPANY batting average that is SO far above the competioon, that the Tribune is THE Media All Star that is admired, loved and deeply respected, not for it’s history, but for the effects the high batting average has on Today’s fan, advertiser and the American street.

Average sucks. Best to be brilliantly good, or SO bad, it’s engaging. It’s that evil zone of average that American Media is stuck in. WE MUST not accept average. Fight it! It’s gotten to be accepted that average is fine. No it’s not…it sucks!

Theater of the Mind. We have to play there. We gotta deliver the magic that gets in people’s heads. As a kid I’d have dreams about comic characters that I’d read in the Tribune. We need to have such an impact on the imagination that people dream about us. Sounds spacy and obscure? It is. But once we impact the theater of the mind that lives in everyone’s head, with Internet, Print and TV…we have touched people on a level that they need and want to be touched…but outside of a Star Wars epic, media hasn’t done in years.

I’m looking forward to meeting and bonding with everyone in the Company. Personally, this isn’t a gig…it’s a MISSION. And being based in Chicago is nice as my off duty passions include Chicago History, Lifelong White Sox Superfan (I guess I’m OK there since I understand Mr. Zell owns a piece), ephemera (I love print) and aviating! I grew up in suburban Flossmoor. I know we’re a global company, but my love for Chicago is life long.

If you have a chance, check my blog. http://leeabrams.blogspot.com Read all 108 posts. It’s generally aimless ranting about what is wrong with media. On April 1, I will cease writing it since now I’ll have the chance to actually help do something about it!

I REALLY look forward to April 1. I think you’ll find me a little out there…but for the right reasons! I have complete empathy for what everyone does…and a burning desire to help you/me/us Change the World and design the future. We can/will do that! (And have some fun along the way)

—Lee Abrams

PS- Instead of reading about the doom and gloom, check out these quotes:

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”
- Niccolo MachiavelliThe Prince (1532)

“The rate of change is not going to slow down anytime soon. If anything, competition in most industries will probably speed up even more in the next few decades.”
- John P. KotterLeading Change

“Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.”
- Niccolo Machiavelli

“People don’t resist change. They resist being changed!”
- Peter Senge

“It is a bad plan that admits of no modification.”
- Publilius SyrusFirst Century BC

“The most successful businessman is the man who holds onto the old just as long as it is good, and grabs the new just as soon as it is better.”
- Robert P. Vanderpoel

“Every generation needs a new revolution.”
- Thomas Jefferson

“Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
-John F. Kennedy

“He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.

“Capital isn’t so important in business. Experience isn’t so important. You can get both these things. What is important is ideas. If you have ideas, you have the main asset you need, and there isn’t any limit to what you can do with your business and your life.”
- Harvey Firestone

“Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart.”
- Mencius (Meng-Tse), 4th century BCE

“Doing the same thing over and over, yet expecting different results, is the definition of crazy.”
- Unknown

M. A. Rosanoff: “Mr. Edison, please tell me what laboratory rules you want me to observe.”Edison: “There ain’t no rules around here. We’re trying to accomplish somep’n!”
- Thomas Edison

“Creativity, as has been said, consists largely of rearranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know. Hence, to think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.”
- George Kneller

“It isn’t the incompetent who destroy an organization. The incompetent never get in a position to destroy it. It is those who achieved something and want to rest upon their achievements who are forever clogging things up.”
- F. M. Young

“It’s easy to come up with new ideas; the hard part is letting go of what worked for you two years ago, but will soon be out of date.”
- Roger von Oech

“We all operate in two contrasting modes, which might be called open and closed. The open mode is more relaxed, more receptive, more exploratory, more democratic, more playful and more humorous. The closed mode is the tighter, more rigid, more hierarchical, more tunnel-visioned. Most people, unfortunately spend most of their time in the closed mode. Not that the closed mode cannot be helpful. If you are leaping a ravine, the moment of takeoff is a bad time for considering alternative strategies. When you charge the enemy machine-gun post, don’t waste energy trying to see the funny side of it. Do it in the “closed” mode. But the moment the action is over, try to return to the “open” mode-to open your mind again to all the feedback from our action that enables us to tell whether the action has been successful, or whether further action is need to improve on what we have done. In other words, we must return to the open mode, because in that mode we are the most aware, most receptive, most creative, and therefore at our most intelligent.”
- John Cleese

“The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.”
- Dr. Linus Pauling

“Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.”
- Albert von Szent-Gyorgy

“To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.”
- Albert Einstein

Without the playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.”
- Carl Jung

“When Alexander the Great visited Diogenes and asked whether he could do anything for the famed teacher, Diogenes replied: “Only stand out of my light.” Perhaps some day we shall know how to heighten creativity. Until then, one of the best things we can do for creative men and women is to stand out of their light.”
- John W. Gardner

“To be creative you have to contribute something different from what you’ve done before. Your results need not be original to the world; few results truly meet that criterion. In fact, most results are built on the work of others.”
- Lynne C. LevesqueBreakthrough Creativity

“We shall not cease from exploration, and at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
- T. S. Eliot

“Once we rid ourselves of traditional thinking we can get on with creating
the future.”
- James Bertrand

“There’s a way to do it better-find it.”
- Thomas Edison

“The essential part of creativity is not being afraid to fail.”
- Edwin H. Land

“Creative activity could be described as a type of learning process where teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.”
- Arthur Koestler

“There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.”
- Edward de Bono

“Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of
it after it is found.”
- James Russell Lowell (1819-1891)

“The things we fear most in organizations-fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances-re the primary sources of creativity.”
- Margaret J. Wheatley

“The achievement of excellence can only occur if the organization promotes a culture of creative dissatisfaction.”
- Lawrence Miller

“When the ‘weaker’ of the two brains (right and left) is stimulated
and encouraged to work in cooperation with the stronger side, the end result is a great increase in overall ability and … often five to ten times more effectiveness.”
- Professor Robert Ornstein, University of California

The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away.”
- Linus Pauling

“To have a great idea, have a lot of them.”
- Thomas Edison

“Companies have to nurture [creativity and motivation]-and have to do it by building a compassionate yet performance-driven corporate culture. In the knowledge economy the traditional soft people side of our business has become the new hard side.”
- Gay MitchellExecutive VP, HR, Royal Bank

“That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of our time.”
- John Stuart Mill

“Creative thinking is not a talent, it is a skill that can be learnt. It empowers people by adding strength to their natural abilities which improves teamwork, productivity and where appropriate profits.”
- Edward de Bono

“Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of
it after it is found.”
- James Russell Lowell (1819-1891)

“The things we fear most in organizations-fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances-re the primary sources of creativity.”
- Margaret J. Wheatley

“The achievement of excellence can only occur if the organization promotes
a culture of creative dissatisfaction.”
- Lawrence Miller

“When the ‘weaker’ of the two brains (right and left) is stimulated
and encouraged to work in cooperation with the stronger side, the end result is
a great increase in overall ability and … often five to ten times more effectiveness.”
- Professor Robert Ornstein, University of California

The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away.”
- Linus Pauling

“To have a great idea, have a lot of them.”
- Thomas Edison

“Companies have to nurture [creativity and motivation]-and have to do it by building a compassionate yet performance-driven corporate culture. In the knowledge economy the traditional soft people side of our business has become the new hard side.”
- Gay MitchellExecutive VP, HR, Royal Bank

“That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of our time.”
- John Stuart Mill

“Creative thinking is not a talent, it is a skill that can be learnt. It empowers people by adding strength to their natural abilities which improves teamwork, productivity and where appropriate profits.”
- Edward de Bono

“Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative explorer looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.”
- Robert Wieder

“Discoveries are often made by not following instructions, by going off the main road, by trying the untried.”
- Frank Tyger

“Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction.”
- Picasso

“If you do not the expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not
to be reached by search or trail.”
- Heraclitus

“The organizations of the future will increasingly depend on the creativity
of their members to survive. Great Groups offer a new model in which the leader is an equal among Titans. In a truly creative collaboration, work is pleasure, and the only rules and procedures are those that advance the common cause.”
- Warren Bennis

“Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats.”
- Howard Aiken

“Some men look at things the way they are and ask why? I dream of things that are not and ask why not?”
- Robert Kennedy

“In every work of genius, we recognize our once rejected thoughts.”
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The human body has two ends on it: one to create with and one to sit on. Sometimes people get their ends reversed. When this happens they need a kick in the seat of the pants.”
- Roger von Oech

“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.”
- Theodore Levitt

“Innovation is the process of turning ideas into manufacturable and marketable form.”
- Watts Humprey

“The innovation point is the pivotal moment when talented and motivated people seek the opportunity to act on their ideas and dreams.”
- W. Arthur Porter

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions”
- Albert Einstein

“I roamed the countryside searching for the answers to things I did not understand. Why shells existed on the tops of mountains along with the imprints of coral and plant and seaweed usually found in the sea. Why the thunder lasts a longer time than that which causes it and why immediately on its creation the lightening becomes visible to the eye while thunder requires time to travel. How the various circles of water form around the spot which has been struck by a stone and why a bird sustains itself in the air. These questions and other strange phenomena engaged my thought throughout my life.”
- Leonardo da Vinci

“Slaying sacred cows makes great steaks.”
- Dick Nicolose

“In the modern world of business it is useless to be a creative original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. Management cannot be expected to recognize a good idea unless it is presented to them by a good salesman.”
- David M. Ogilvy

“A person might be able to play without being creative, but he sure can’t
be creative without playing.”
- Kurt Hanks and Jay Parry

“[I]in 1913, the first assembly line was implemented at Ford Motor Company. The process grew like a vine and eventually spread to all phases of the manufacture of Ford cars, and then through the entire world of heavy industry. There can be no doubt that a powerful revolution occurred at Highland Park-but it was not the assembly line itself that provided the power. Rather, it was the creation of an atmosphere in which improvement was the real product: a better, cheaper, Model T followed naturally. Every man on the payroll was invited to contribute ideas, and the good ones were implemented without delay.”
- Douglas BrinkleyWheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and A Century of Progress

“Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.”
- Erich Fromm

“It’s the same each time with progress. First they ignore you, then they say you’re mad, then dangerous, then there’s a pause and then you can’t find anyone who disagrees with you.”
- Tony BennBritish politician, in the Observer

“The world is but a canvas to our imaginations.”
- Henry David Thoreau

“Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.”
- George Lois

“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
- Sir Ken Robinson

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