Sam Zell: The Tribune and Cubs merely assets?

"I don't have any emotional attachment to assets."--Sam Zell, owner of the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Cubs in a CNBC interview about the paper's and team's future, as reported in the Tribune.

Maybe that's why he's worth--what?--billions, and why those of us who love the newspapers and baseball teams we grew up with aren't worth billions. Here is a legitimate question: Should community institutions, such as the Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times, be treated merely as assets, or does ownership--proprietorship, really--entail an obligation beyond


Sam Zell

making money?

The press is the only (profession)(trade)(racket(take your pick) that has a constitutional protection, and that's for a reason: Not to protect them as investments, but because of their critical role in a democracy. So, I suppose, that newspapers should be looked upon as something more than an "asset"--even if it's in bankruptcy and the value of the "asset" is being set by a bankruptcy judge and the market.

Anyway, it's an interesting question. Having once worked for Conrad Black--a truly loathsome person--I can testify first hand about the consequences of  viewing a community institution as just another "asset."

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    Chicago Tribune contributing op-ed columnist and author of forthcoming historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812." Reporter, editor and columnist for Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News. Freelance writer and editor.

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