Ed Driscoll

Hot Tub Time Machine

What is it with the MSM always wanting, like their mid-century man in the White House, to go back to the future? Paul Krugman wants to refight World War II to jump-start the economy. Richard Cohen of the Washington Post wants to relive the protests of the Vietnam War — though with the Tea Party protests cast as the second coming of Richard Nixon (or something like that). Meanwhile, at least one executive at the Chicago Tribune seems trapped somewhere between the freewheeling macho newspaper days of the 1920s and ’30s, as portrayed in Ben Hecht’s classic (and endlessly remade) movie The Front Page, and the first season of Mad Men:

In January 2008, soon after the venerable Tribune Company was sold for $8.2 billion, Randy Michaels, a new top executive, ran into several other senior colleagues at the InterContinental Hotel next to the Tribune Tower in Chicago.

Mr. Michaels, a former radio executive and disc jockey, had been handpicked by Sam Zell, a billionaire who was the new controlling shareholder, to run much of the media company’s vast collection of properties, including The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, WGN America and The Chicago Cubs.

After Mr. Michaels arrived, according to two people at the bar that night, he sat down and said, “watch this,” and offered the waitress $100 to show him her breasts. The group sat dumbfounded.

“Here was this guy, who was responsible for all these people, getting drunk in front of senior people and saying this to a waitress who many of us knew,” said one of the Tribune executives present, who declined to be identified because he had left the company and did not want to be quoted criticizing a former employer. “I have never seen anything like it.”

The Times’ article is titled “Tales of a Bankrupt Culture,” an institutional malaise that’s long vexed the Gray Lady as well.