At Tribune, Change Is Blowin' in the Wind

Bob Dylan from
Bob Dylan from "Bob Dylan Live 1966: The 'Royal Albert Hall' Concert (The Bootleg Series Vol. 4) Photo by Barry Feinstein. (Barry Feinstein)
By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 29, 2008

He hasn't started as chief innovation officer for Tribune Co., but the outgoing XM Satellite Radio chief programmer, Lee Abrams, has already rocked the venerated Tribune Tower in Chicago.

Abrams, a radio legend, has told employees of the struggling Tribune that news and information are the "new rock-and-roll" and ripe for reinvention. Tribune was sort of on board with this idea already; it had posted a lobby display about "transformative change," championed by John Kotter, a Harvard professor and leadership guru.

But on a recent tour of the building, Abrams saw the display and said, "Huh?" So he had a large black-and-white head shot of a young Bob Dylan hung in a display case near the grand lobby entrance of the gothic Tribune Tower. Posted alongside are the lyrics to Dylan's 1964 classic "The Times They Are A-Changin'."

Burdened with $13 billion in debt and facing sharp revenue losses, Tribune staffers walking past the lyrics may be especially struck by these lines:

And admit that the waters around you have grown

And accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone.

If your time to you is worth savin'

Then you better start swimmin' or you'll sink like a stone

XM threw a party for Abrams yesterday at the company's headquarters in the District. He got the biggest laugh with his sign-off direction to the staff, who are awaiting final government approval of their merger with rival Sirius Satellite Radio: "I'll leave you with four words: Don't [mess] it up!"

© 2008 The Washington Post Company