Patterico's Pontifications


Sam Zell Tells Journalist Off — In No Uncertain Terms

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:29 am

Gawker has what is, in my estimation, one of the most seriously awesome videos of the century thus far: Sam Zell telling an arrogant journalist off — profanity and all. (Via Roderick.) This is your official content warning; transcript below with my emphasis.

Arrogant journalist: I hear you guys talking a lot about revenue and the bottom line and all that, but I’m a journalist? I kind of want to know what your viewpoints are on journalism and the role it plays in the community, because we’re not the Pennysaver, we’re a newspaper.

Zell: My attitude on journalism is very simple. I want to make enough money so I can afford you. It’s really that simple, OK? You need to, in effect, help me by being a journalist that focuses on what our readers want, and therefore generates more revenue. We understand unequivocally that the heart and soul of this business is the editorial side of the business. That’s our content. But if we don’t have the revenue, it doesn’t really matter.

Arrogant journalist: But what readers want are puppy dogs, and, I mean, we also need to inform the community, not just —

Zell: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I can’t agr — You’re giving me what I call the classic journalistic arrogance — deciding that puppies don’t count. I don’t know anything about puppies. What I’m interested in is, how can we generate additional interest in our product and additional revenue, so we can make our product better and better. And hopefully we get to the point where our revenue is so significant that we can do puppies and Iraq. Fuck you.

Yes, he really said that.

“But what readers want are puppy dogs . . .” Yeah, I’d call that classic journalistic arrogance. My only regret is that there is no video of Sam Zell saying the same thing to someone at the L.A. Times.

58 Responses to “Sam Zell Tells Journalist Off — In No Uncertain Terms”

  1. I want puppies. I’m for puppies. Fuck you, Patterico!

    tired (6ae407)

  2. …I appears that his ” Fuck you ” was a response to something she did, as it came after a pause. Watch the video and see him light up just before/as he said it. I’d like to know what transpired that we can’t see.

    dave dudley (4acd08)

  3. These “journalists” should be forced to work on a farm or a restaurant for two years as a prerequisite to their “graduation”, so that they can understand what it means to deliver a quality product to people who want it for a living. If they want to just express their literary talents or exercise their First Amendment rights, they better had been smart enough to choose rich parents.

    nk (4ebdf4)

  4. I could only guess she either did the mega rolleyes or perhaps a big talk to the hand.

    gabriel (6d7447)

  5. “I want puppies. I’m for puppies. Fuck you, Patterico!”

    Heh. But would you subscribe to the LAT even if they gave you a free puppy as part of the deal?

    Btw, I agree with the commenters who say Zell appears to be reacting to something.

    Patterico (8da4a4)

  6. If I take a free puppy, then I will need the LAT, won’t I? It’s a diabolical marketing scheme!

    tired (dbbf70)

  7. I think gabriel is right. Still … a man does not talk that way to women.

    nk (4ebdf4)

  8. a man does not talk that way to women.

    Comment by nk — 2/5/2008 @ 9:02 am

    Agreed, even if she gave him an obscene gesture. Then she’d look arrogant AND rude. As it is now, they both look bad.

    But still. She’s a twit for saying the puppy thing. Your typical journalist: “gotta force my [sic] truth down the benighted public’s throat.” Gag.

    no one you know (1f5ddb)

  9. Vintage Zell – Argue back if you’ve got the stones, otherwise cower in your cubes.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  10. A man does not talk that way to a lady. In the modern world women have demanded to be treated as equals and are therefore fair game.

    That was a long pause before the expletive, so clearly was a response to something.

    Would this be a big deal if he had said the same to a male journalist?

    I just love her opening line.

    I hear you guys talking alot about revenue and the bottom line, but I’m a journalist…

    As if she’s somehow pure and totally removed from the business aspect.

    ThomasD (b76258)

  11. Only a faggot* says “fuck you” to a woman to her face. Or to anybody else weaker than himself. Were someone to say “fuck you” to me, I would give him a spanking, bitch-slap or knock-down drag-out fight, depending on his age and physical condition. Zam Zell would have gotten a bitch-slap from me … or several.

    *With apologizies to Patterico.

    nk (4ebdf4)

  12. O.K., we are all used to filth in the music that’s played today, in the movies we all watch today, in most of the media on the air today and we get upset over a simple FU from an old guy? Please. The days when respect for others and acceptance of responsibility for our individual actions died in the throes of marijuana smoke, heroin trips or was it LSD? As an old broad who grew up when those words and all the others in use today would not have crossed the lips of anyone I knew, I actually enjoy Zell telling some bimbo who thinks her writings are sacred to “go forth and fornicate”. Where he made his mistake, was in not telling the idiot exactly where to do it to herself.

    Sue (215eec)

  13. Nobody can be as unkind to a lady as another lady. The point is not his dirty mouth but the fact that he aimed it at somebody who he knew would not punch it down his throat.

    nk (4ebdf4)

  14. I read that the “fuck you” was in response to the journalist turning her back on him mid-response

    robert ferrigno (16589e)

  15. Chtistoph’s back?

    daleyrocks (906622)

  16. Christoph?

    daleyrocks (906622)

  17. The point is not his dirty mouth but the fact that he aimed it at somebody who he knew would not punch it down his throat.

    Physical altercations have become such a normal part of the work environment outside the Post Office these days as a way of solving problems.

    Good to know Christoph/nk.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  18. It looks she muttered something or did something extra near the end of his answer to earn that f-bomb.

    Bird Dog (94351d)

  19. I remember when Dan Blather just went ape-Sh*t when the CBS News budget was cut and he was told that his division had to MAKE MONEY. Same thing Zell told this twit.

    What Zell doesn’t understand is that this arrogant, contemptuous attitude is stained deep in his LATimes news and editorial rooms. He’s got to start channeling the Donald and tell these minions that they are FIRED!

    PCD (c378fd)

  20. I read that the “fuck you” was in response to the journalist turning her back on him mid-response

    Comment by robert ferrigno — 2/5/2008 @ 9:59 am

    Indeed – So says the LA Times:

    Zell’s spokeswoman, Terry Holt, said her boss wasn’t offended by the photographer’s questions but rather by Fajardo’s “sarcastic tone” and that she turned her back on Zell as he was speaking. Holt added that Zell, who was out of the country Monday, had been trying to reach Fajardo to apologize “if he offended her in any way.”

    nk, I find your contemplations of violence in response to words … disturbing. If I were to lob an FU your way, and you were to “bitch slap” me, I don’t think that it would turn out well for any of us. Perhaps our fair host can tell us what the legal case is when you “bitch slap” someone and excuse it to the judge with “but he said fuck you” – anyone?

    ThomasD hit the nail on the head – The opening line says it all –

    I hear you guys talking alot about revenue and the bottom line, but I’m a journalist

    carlitos (2bcbb9)

  21. Perhaps our fair host can tell us what the legal case is when you “bitch slap” someone and excuse it to the judge with “but he said fuck you” – anyone?

    Let’s leave Patterico out of this. I’ve offended him enough by calling Zell a f****t.

    I handled a case where my young and foolish client loosed a stream of obscenities against a woman. Her male relatives expressed their displeasure on his face. The police charged him with assault in that he put her “in reasonable fear of battery or offensive physical contact”. In court, he still had black eyes, a split lip and bruised nose. The judge dismissed the assault charge but told me, “Better advise your client to watch his mouth in the future, counsel”. When you provoke a breach of the common peace, don’t complain too loudly that you came out on the losing end.

    nk (4ebdf4)

  22. I can’t quite tell your point here. Are you claiming that:
    Saying “fuck you” to a woman with her back turned (Mr. Zell didn’t say it “to her face,” sorry) is akin to loosing a “stream of obscenities” that could/should provoke male relatives’ honor and excuse physical assault?

    By this logic, would your crude insult regarding Mr. Zell’s sexuality qualify him or his relatives to hit you about the face?

    I ask this entirely in a theoretical sense, despite the fact that I work for someone prone to this level of discourse 🙂

    carlitos (2bcbb9)

  23. I’m with nk on this one: Zell makes a really great argument, then completely undercuts it with his silly taunt. Now, all anyone talks about is the taunt, rather than his complete take-down of the pretentious “journalist.” I’m not as big on the whole “you can’t say that to a woman” idea, but I think in general this sort of language has no place in a well-run business.

    If the woman in question turned his back on him or rolled his eyes or whatever, Zell should have just fallen back on the boss’s mainstay, “If you don’t like it, there’s the door.”

    JVW (b03dfa)

  24. Carlitos. My point, if I had any, was that a man only says “fuck you” to somebody who can punch him out if he’s aiming to pick a fight. Not to somebody weaker than he is. And he should not be looking to pick a fight with a woman.

    As for me vs. Zell, he’s an old man and I would not be punching him out. Maybe just reminding him that he’s an old man and mortal who should not be picking fights but instead preparing his soul for Judgment.

    nk (4ebdf4)

  25. What Zell doesn’t understand is that this arrogant, contemptuous attitude is stained deep in his LATimes news and editorial rooms.

    Yes indeed. They’ve got an entitlement mentality and come near to thinking we should be taxed to support their wonderful journalism.

    He’s got to start channeling the Donald and tell these minions that they are FIRED!
    Yes, but please, no channeling the Donald.

    Bradley J. Fikes (a5a02a)

  26. I just don’t see strong or insulting words, even “fuck you,” as picking a fight. I’m 100% sure that Sam was not looking for a “fight” in the physical sense. Nor do I agree that it is incumbent on me to size up individuals to whom I say bad things, and only offend bigger/tougher people, thus not “picking a fight” with smaller/weaker people.

    If someone says “fuck you” and you assault them, you probably have some emotional problems and were going to assault someone at some other time anyway. I mean, it’s just not ok to hit people. No matter what I say, I’m not looking to fight anyone. They are just words, and I’m an adult.

    Good point about those two words undercutting his otherwise outstanding takedown, though.

    carlitos (2bcbb9)

  27. “You’re looking at an old person, who’s trying to get into Heaven now” –Bill Cosby, as a parent explaining superstrict parents who turn into marshmallow grandparents

    FWIW, I think saying “FU” to anyone is really crude and rude (and to their back is still addressing them, so saying it to their back = saying it to their face).

    But IMO it’s worse to say it to a woman. The phrase “the gentler sex” is still valid even though yes, many women today act crudely and rudely. The majority, yet anyway, doesn’t tend that way. And general respect shown especially to women (used to be called “chivalry) –even if a particular woman doesn’t deserve it–is one of the qualities of a well bred man. Dunno if that’s what nk meant but that’s MO.

    no one you know (1f5ddb)

  28. Hillary notwithstanding, women cannot have it both ways. We have earned the right to be treated with utter disrespect by men. Women deserve this. “Journalists” especially deserve it.

    I actually thought what he said was mild and soft. In any case, the first time a male said this to me, he was 15 and I was 14. I said it right back. He said “OK, where do you want to do it?” Needless to say it didn’t happen. That might have been my first feminist moment. 😉

    Peg C. (836973)

  29. You know why Zell’s so angry? He’s begun to realize that his Tribune deal is the worst mistake he’s ever made in a brilliant lifetime career. The bonds are worth only dimes on the dollar. Then he has to take lip from one of the typically snooty employees of the business he’s chosen.

    gp (d28186)

  30. In real life and on the internet, I expect people to speak respectfully to me as long as I treat them with respect. If I signal or state otherwise, I’m fair game just like any other man or woman.

    This reporter (who is apparently female) specifically stated she’s a journalist who doesn’t want to cover puppy dogs. She wants the rough-and-tumble of the journalists’ world so that includes a boss/interviewee like Sam Zell who speaks his mind.

    Deal with it.

    DRJ (517d26)

  31. From Phil Rosenthal’s column in today’s Chicago Tribune:

    Tribune Co. spokesman Gary Weitman said today Zell’s four-letter response to Fajardo had nothing to do with the question, but rather the way it was asked and Zell’s perception that she wasn’t really listening to his answer. He said Zell, who has been traveling, has failed in at least two attempts to contact Fajardo to apologize if she was offended and explain why he felt she was being disrespectful.

    “Whether she intended it or not, Sam’s perception was that she was being disrespectful in both the tone she was using with him and the fact she was shaking her head as he was answering the question and, ultimately, before he finished the answer, turned her back on him and walked away,” Weitman said.

    I’ve heard plenty of innapropriate language in the workplace, reprimanded others for its use and been reprimanded myself, but I’ve never seen violence used as a result as nk suggests as a remedy. He must work in some interesting places or have a very short fuse.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  32. DRJ,

    Remember that scene from “The Virginian” where Brian Donlevy calls Gary Cooper a “sonofabithch” and Gary Cooper sticks his Colt into Donlevy’s belly and says, “When you call me that, smile?”

    nk (4ebdf4)

  33. NK,

    If I remember correctly, he called him a “long-legged sonofa–.”

    DRJ (517d26)

  34. A man noticing another man’s legs. That’s just …. 😉

    nk (4ebdf4)

  35. And I mixed up the Virginians and Trampases. It was Joel McRea vs. Brian Donlevy and Gary Cooper vs. Walter Huston.

    nk (4ebdf4)

  36. I’ve only seen the Gary Cooper version once. For me, the “real” Virginian was James Drury and Trampas wasn’t the villain – he was a good guy, Doug McClure.

    DRJ (517d26)

  37. nk would kick both their asses, doesn’t matter the actual actors or roles 🙂

    Zell is probably just pissed that he got stuck with the loser Cubs as part of the deal.

    carlitos (5d7926)

  38. “But what readers want are puppy dogs, and, I mean, we also need to inform the community, not just —”

    Translation: We know what’s best for those stupid morons who read us.

    Alta Bob (4daddd)

  39. Carlitos – I was hoping that Mark Cuban would still buy the Cubs.

    Had he led off with the “fuck you”, it would have flowed quite nicely.

    If we want puppy dogs, where did the “if it bleeds, it leads” meme come from ?

    JD (a11194)

  40. Cuban buying the cubs would be great for them and great for baseball. But, bad for my White Sox, so fuck him 😉

    carlitos (5d7926)

  41. carlitos – I disagree. All of Cubans money could not bring a title to Dallas, and all of Cuban’s money will not overcome a century of a losing tradition in the friendly confines. It will actually be more entertaining, kind of like this year. They will spend lots of money, get their hopes way up, and then we can sit back and chuckle when their hopes are crushed like a bug under Hillary’s cankles.

    JD (a11194)

  42. What about the arrogant CEO. Wow I’ve never heard of a billionaire being full of himself.

    Many of you are insulting the journalist and assuming she must have deserved it. Did it ever occurr to you that Zell may just be a jerk. I spoke to some people who were there(not journalists by the way, but people in sales) and they refute Zell’s version. They say she walked away after he insulted her. What’s more Zell tried to have the expletive deleted from the video. Look it up it’s in published reports. His version keeps changing, first she was sarcastic, then she was sarcastic and walked away, later she was sacarcastic an shaking her head and walked away. He’s fine tuning his version with each new
    statement. Must be talking to lawyers. Gee I wonder why? Could it be he knows he fucked up!!!

    fedup (d360c7)

  43. Uh, who cares? Somebody told somebody else, fuck you. It only happens a trillion times a day.

    tired (fc6ebb)

  44. fedup – We are not assuming she must have deserved it. That requires no assumptions. The silly “they want puppies” drivel was more than sufficient to warrant same.

    JD (75f5c3)

  45. fedup, what the hell do lawyers have to do with this? is it now illegal to cuss out an employee? better tell my boss.

    carlitos (2bcbb9)

  46. To paraphrase Nietszche: Civility is the nobility of the strong; defiance is the nobility of the weak. In psychiatry it’s called “passive-aggressive”. In the playground it’s called, “Pick on somebody your own size”.

    nk (4ebdf4)

  47. In business it’s called the Golden Rule. I’ve got the Gold and I make the Rules. Fuck You if you don’t like them.

    daleyrocks (906622)

  48. There’s a thousand ways to say “fuck you” without saying “fuck you”, daleyrocks. Here’s one to Sam Zell, “You will need to use some of that gold for new teeth”.

    The more I think of this, the more it pisses me off. Let alone that she’s a woman, he’s her boss, and a billionaire, and he owns a gazillion news outlets that she will never work in, and could probably blacklist her in the ones he doesn’t own. It was just plain meanness.

    nk (4ebdf4)

  49. Stay pissed off nk, fine with me. I worked on a few deals with Zell in the 1980s. He doesn’t suffer fools. I doubt he would make a public comment like he did unless provoked, but we don’t know the whole story, do we?

    daleyrocks (906622)

  50. I’m sorry that we came to disagreement on this, daleyrocks. Truce.

    nk (4ebdf4)

  51. Yeah! Go Sam Zell!

    I HATE Freedom of the Press. The public DOES want puppy dogs! We want Britney Spears blowing her brains out on national TV.

    We do NOT want investigative journalism. We do not want to know when we are being ripped off. We do not want to know when our elected and appointed officials are committing abuses that will ruin our country (unless it involves Clinton, an intern, a cigar, a humidor and the Oval Office).

    Hey, in the Soviet Union, it worked there. It CAN work here.

    Yeah, *crew knowing what’s really going on in our world!

    Just give us stuff we wanna buy!

    Yeah! I wanna be informed by the National Enquirer.

    If there’s another Watergate, so freakin’ what???

    Rip me off. Man, I’m so tired of these whiny liberals.

    So we lose some Constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms. Boo-hoo.

    We need totalitarianism. It sells.

    Take that, democracy-lovers. You stink.

    Fenarkleman (d7d4e2)

  52. Oh, and if you have seen the video of this thing, it’s quite clear that whoever dressed Sam Zell in that ridiculous button-down shirt with the saggy old man flesh showing was their way of saying “F-U” to him, too.

    Yea! F-us all!!!!

    Democracy stinks. Bring back fascism!

    Bring back Pravda! Oh, wait. We’ve got Fox News.

    Fenarkleman (d7d4e2)

  53. Fen, did you forget your meds?

    Because neither of your posts make much sense…

    Scott Jacobs (3c07ad)

  54. I got your sense right here, Commie. Of course it makes no sense to you.

    You want to get rid of Freedom of the Press. And you like to spit on the Constitution for fun.

    I guess you’ll fit in well in a mindless, numb, totalitarian society.

    Med this, you un-patriotic fop.

    Fenarkleman (d7d4e2)

  55. *chuckles*

    You don’t read the comments here much, do you… You must not.


    Priceless, my clueless friend. you are simply priceless.

    Scott Jacobs (3c07ad)

  56. Though I have to ask (and I’m going to regret attempting to engage you in discussion, but ah well), how is it that wishing someone would disclose something that could very easily be considered to be bias-generating the exact same thing as hating freedom of the press and freedom of speech?

    I await your reply, because I think it will give a great deal of insight into your warped psyche, and also because I really don’t have anything else to do till I’m off work.

    Scott Jacobs (3c07ad)

  57. I want to know what krazy kagu thinks.

    carlitos (2bcbb9)

  58. How many spoonfuls of sugar to help the medicine of news go down?

    Manning Pynn


    February 10, 2008
    Click here to find out more!

    Sam Zell, the $6 billion man who just bought the reins of the Sentinel’s parent company, came to town a little more than a week ago to share his view of where this newspaper is headed — and what you, as a reader, can expect.

    In a parking-lot tent, under a “YOU Own This Place Now!” banner, he told employees that riches lay ahead if they would cut through red tape, innovate and give readers what they want. His frequent use of words you won’t see in this newspaper — at least, not yet — delighted the crowd and seemed to encourage the breaking of antiquated rules.

    Zell was on a roll when staff photographer Sara Fajardo stepped up to ask a question about the part journalism would play in this new order.

    Responding to his comment about focusing “on what our readers want and, therefore, generates more revenue,” she said, “What readers want are puppy dogs . . . ,” referring to soft features as opposed to hard news, and noted, “We also need to inform the community.”

    Zell broke in to brand her comments “journalistic arrogance.” Then, as he ended his short rebuke, he stepped back from the lectern and directed an obscenity at her.

    Few heard it at the time, and it was a day or two later before it was noticed on a video recording of the event — which soon showed up on the Internet.

    Zell’s spokeswoman, Terry Holt, told the Los Angeles Times — like the Sentinel, part of Tribune Company — last week that it was Fajardo’s “sarcastic tone” and her turning her back on him as he was speaking, not her question, that prompted his vulgarism.

    If that’s what happened, it escaped Sentinel Publisher Kathy Waltz’s notice. Seated next to Zell on the dais, she saw Fajardo “shaking her head, shrugging her shoulders and walking away. There was applause from the audience to Sam’s response, which is why many of us did not hear Sam swear at her. That is also why it appeared to me that his response was over, and it did not appear to me that Sara left while Sam was still talking. Sam apparently saw it differently.”

    Waltz noted, “Much of Sam’s answer was his view on being able to afford to do both ‘soft’ stories and serious, public-service journalism. All of that was appropriate, and I agree with that goal. The invective he used toward the employee was inappropriate in my view.”

    Editor Charlotte Hall had a similar view: “I feel the obscenity Sam directed at Sara was not appropriate, and I’ve never known Sara to be arrogant. . . . Some of the other statements during the presentation, about the importance of content and the reader, as well as the principle of making local decisions locally, should be heartening to journalists. Unfortunately, they have been obscured by the final comment to Sara.”

    Then there is Fajardo, who has not spoken publicly about the exchange. “It was not my intention to offend him,” she told me. “I thought that he had finished his statement, and so I left the microphone so the next person could ask their question.”

    Asked what she had been trying to say when Zell broke in, she said, “I was trying to affirm that I understood what he meant about revenue and that, as a journalist, I understand the need for soft news. It’s important, but sometimes a newspaper has to question authority and question things that are happening in the community and cause us to be unpopular and cause us to lose advertisers, and where does he stand on that?”

    I’ve asked him, but I have yet to receive a reply. That’s not necessarily indicative of a refusal to comment. Zell has asked all Tribune employees to e-mail him, as I did. He may not have gotten to the inquiry.

    Fajardo, with whom Zell also has not spoken, said she was “a little perplexed” by his reaction to her questioning, but journalists aren’t typically shocked by that kind of language. They get it with regularity from people who don’t like what appears — or is anticipated — in print.

    What appears in print, of course, is the real issue.

    Puppy dogs — and a wide variety of features and amusements — are the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. In the past year that spoon has grown larger. Although the appropriate ratio is debatable, a certain amount of sweetener is necessary to the health — and continued existence — of the business.

    The medicine, of course, is the serious news, the government news, etc. that may not excite or even please readers, or bring “hits” to the Sentinel’s Web site, but it forms the core of the newspaper’s reason for being — its mission.

    The United States Constitution doesn’t protect the press so that newspapers can generate revenue. It does so to ensure that citizens always will have independent monitors of their government.

    Filling that need does not indicate arrogance. It’s necessary to Americans’ way of life.

    Andrea (f3e715)

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