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We live in an environment in which, with the proper investment-banking support, your grandmother's toilet-paper cozy could fetch top dollar in a takeover. Several private equity groups would submit bids, as would no doubt some private investors, lured by the prestige of owning your grandmother's pink knit cover for that spare roll, well known as her favorite.

Why am I brining up your grandmother's decor? Because even when the business media aren't jumping to the wrong conclusions, deifying run-of-the-mill CEOs who are possessed of little but the gift of gab or failing to use a proper sense of business history to discern the future, they still can fail investors.

Witness the latest coverage of Tribune ( TRB). The media has given us droning, just-the-facts-ma'am reporting of what is a very ironic issue with wider implications that need to be examined. This droning itself tells us as much about the fate of newspapers as the insultingly meager bids.

You got that? The major problem with newspaper companies, especially in their inability to reach younger readers or garner takeover bids that lay anywhere north of laughable, has to do with their play-it-safe tone. And this cautious tone, essential to any investors making a valiant but mistaken attempt to play contrarian and invest in the newspaper companies right now, was borne more for business reasons than anything having to do with journalism.

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