The newspaper’s parent company, Tribune Company was purchased and taken private. The new management reorganized all of the various IT departments into a central service division, Tribune Technology, beneath the Tribune Company corporate umbrella. This reorganization affected my position with the newspaper.
On December 8th, 2008, less than a year after the going private transaction, Tribune Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, citing a precipitous decline in advertising revenue and a credit market frozen by the housing bubble. Tribune has been in bankruptcy proceedings ever since.
As a result of investigations relating to the bankruptcy filing, independent examiners have stated they believe it is at least “somewhat likely” that the entire proceeding — from the levereged buyout to the bankruptcy protection — was fraudulent from the beginning.
In December of 2009, Sam Zell resigned as CEO but remained on as Chairman of the Board. Randy Michaels took over as CEO. This was the second promotion for Michaels within 18 months. A colony of other executives from Clear Channel joined Michaels to operate various aspects of Tribune’s businesses. Of these assorted personnel changes, the hiring of Steve Gable as Chief Technology Officer had the greatest direct effect on my day-to-day job within the company. I reported to four managers between September 2008 and December 2009. This frenetic guidance and direction — filtered through the various levels of management — set the tone for my workday: a race condition like no other I had experienced before.
Volatility became my watchword. Things changed. And things changed very quickly. One of my colleagues described the feeling as being like “working for a 143 year-old startup.” During my tenure, I participated in some incredible projects. I was tapped to be the networking support for our editorial coverage of both the DNC and RNC 2008 political conventions. I was part of a team that built a brand new national wide-area network, and the technical lead to build a brand new datacenter. Both the second and third project involved new technology, new challenges, strict budgets, and tight deadlines. I learned an incredible amount. I had the opportunity to work with some of the brightest, kindest, and most interesting people in my career.
All of this is a rather long prelude to what I’m wanting to say. So I suppose I should stop dissembling and get to the point. (During my time in the newspaper business I have learned how to bury the lede.) At the end of July I tendered my resignation with Tribune and accepted a position with the National Opinion Research Center. Established in 1941, NORC is a not-for-profit social science research organization associated with the University of Chicago. Clients include the the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control, CNN, the Department of Defense, the New York Times, the US Department of Labor and the Wall Street Journal.
I was not actively looking for another position. In spite of how it may have sounded, given all the instability with Tribune I summarized earlier, I was not looking to leave. I liked my job there. As I said, I worked with great people. I liked what I was doing. I learned. I grew. The position with NORC was an opportunity in the most literal sense of the term: a favorable juncture of circumstances. They do not come often. I took it.
My particular projects and tasks at NORC are quite similar to those I had at Tribune, but the business is quite different. And it is my sincere hope that in making this shift I have exchanged volatility for stability without sacrificing personal growth and further opportunity. I don’t think I have.