Images posted by Robert Feder, a long-time Chicago Sun-Times columnist who now writes for WBEZ's Vocalo.org blog, show executives from the Chicago Tribune holding a poker party, complete with felt tables and poshly dressed dealers, in the Tribune Tower's revered McCormick Room.
From Feder's post:
Photos published on Facebook show top executives of Tribune Co. -- led by CEO Randy Michaels -- at a gambling, drinking and smoking party in the palatial Tribune Tower office once occupied by the company's patriarch, Col. Robert R. McCormick.
"We are in the office of the guy who ran the company from the 1920s to 1955 -- it's normally a shrine," wrote John D. Phillips, the Tribune Tower building manager who posted the photos. "We pretty much desecrated it with gambling, booze and cigars. Good thing we know the guy who runs the building!"
In this image, Marc Chase, president of Tribune Interactive, and Kevin Metheny, program director of Trib-owned talk station WGN-AM, flip through handfuls of cash:
Here, Tribune CEO Randy Michaels, at far right, leads the festivities:
While there's been debate in Chicago media circles about exactly how egregious holding a party in the McCormick Room really is, the optics are certainly troubling. The Tribune, like so many newspapers around the country, has slashed budgets and cut armies of reporters; in fact, Tribune Co. filed for bankruptcy in late 2008. Pictures of executives pushing cash around in the ornate, museum-like room -- coupled with recent stories of massive executive bonuses during the current crisis -- run counter to the image of austerity the company is portraying in bankruptcy court.
Feder's fellow Vocalo.org blogger Justin Kaufmann writes that it's not the best symbolic imagery for a company in trouble:
The great debate rages this morning over whether or not Trib bosses are jerks for playing poker in the sacred McCormick room at the Tribune Tower. Pictures were leaked to Robert Feder and he posted them this morning. ...
Personally? I think it isn't the act that is the problem, but this story is a metaphor.
For comparison, the McCormick Room usually looks like this (via Windy Pixel):