Tribune's Rules: A Quirky Rush to Good Judgment

"Have fun," the new owner tells Tribune Co. employees while promising a "more direct" culture. (Charles Rex Arbogast - AP)
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By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 17, 2008

Media giant Tribune Co., which last month passed from public to private, employee ownership under the direction of real estate mogul Sam Zell, gave its nearly 20,000 employees a handbook yesterday outlining appropriate workplace policies and behavior and the new company's values.

The handbook is a mix of corporate earnestness, surprising folksiness and common-sense rules, free of the antiseptic training-module language that has become a part of corporate human resources culture. In an e-mail accompanying the handbook, the feisty Zell told his employees that he had heard from many of them that what they wanted most was to eliminate red tape and speed up decision-making.

As such, the handbook is a "reminder not to take ourselves too seriously and to have fun," Zell wrote. He wanted the handbook to "reflect our new culture, one that is more direct than its predecessor."

The guide was largely authored by Tribune's new head of broadcasting, Randy Michaels, a veteran Clear Channel executive. Also contributing to the handbook was Howard Weinstein, Tribune's labor counsel. Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman said he did not know if rank-and-file employees contributed anything other than suggestions.

Some highlights of the company rules in the new Tribune employee handbook:

"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."

From Tribune Company Core Values section:

"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.

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