Seeming to cast its once powerful newspaper empire adrift, Tribune Co. announced this morning (Wednesday) that its publishing and broadcasting units will become separate entities. In a clear effort to put a good face on the decision, Tribune chief Peter Liguori said in a statement that it will bring single-minded attention to the journalistic standards, advertising partnerships and digital prospects of our iconic newspapers, while also enabling us to take advantage of the operational and strategic opportunities created by the significant scale we are building in broadcasting. But in reporting the split, The New York Times noted that the motivation behind it was to separate high-value, high-return entertainment and television assets from newspapers, which face a difficult operating environment that has dragged down earnings. Over the next 12 months, the company said, the newspapers, which include the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel, the Hartford Courant and related assets, such as the newspapers' websites, will be spun off into an independent company, Tribune Publishing Co., while the original Tribune Co. will retain all of the other television, radio and cable holdings and real estate, including Chicago's famed Tribune Tower. Those holdings will now include 42 TV stations following completion of last week's $2.73-billion acquisition of Local TV. It was not clear just how the spin-off would affect a possible sale of the Tribune newspapers -- either collectively or individually. Liguori, who has a lengthy career as a TV executive, referred only indirectly to such a sale when he remarked in his statement, Pursuing the separation of our publishing and broadcasting businesses will also allow us to maintain flexibility as we continue considering all our strategic alternatives for maximizing shareholder value. The decision would appear to mirror one taken by News Corp, which has likewise divided its publishing and broadcasting holdings into separate companies.