As Tribune (NYSE:TRB) moves toward an apparent fourth-quarter buyout by Chicago billionaire investor Sam Zell, its fortunes continue to slide. At the same time, the market seems no more convinced that the privatization will really get done at the agreed-to price.

The major difficulty for the company and its peers, including Gannett (NYSE:GCI), McClatchy (NYSE:MNI), and New York Times (NYSE:NYT), is a sharp and continuing slide in advertising revenue,  accompanied by a combination of the nation's severe real estate difficulties and readers' migration to the Internet.

At Tribune, that resulted in a 5.9% revenue decline in July, with revenue at the publishing unit down 8.6%. Advertising revenue fell 10.3%. Classified ad revenue tumbled 18.2%, as real estate revenue dropped a steep 24%. It was another disappointing month from a company that recently reported lackluster earnings.

It's no new story. Month after month, we're greeted with the same declines at all the big publishers. Indeed, this week, Fitch Ratings maintained its negative outlook on the sector, noting that it's particularly concerned about Gannett, Tribune, and McClatchy. Lee Enterprises (NYSE:LEE), a publisher of daily and weekly newspapers and specialty publications, appears to be faring slightly better than the others by taking a specifically local approach to its operations. (We recently had the opportunity to interview Lee's CEO.)

Investors seem concerned about Tribune as well. While the Zell-engineered buyout of the company is planned for the fourth quarter at $34 a share, the company's shares closed slightly more than 20% lower than that on Thursday. The Zell group has arranged for the financing that would facilitate the buyout, although participating banks might pull that commitment if there is a material change in the company's circumstances -- which appears to be happening.

Tribune also is selling its historic Hollywood studio complex, once the site of Warner Bros.' filming of The Jazz Singer, which currently serves as the home of Tribune Entertainment and syndicated TV producer Tribune Studios. In addition, the company is looking to offload its local TV station, KTLA.

I'll say it again: I remain skeptical that Tribune will be taken private this year, at least at $34 a share. The company's unceasing slide in revenue just doesn't square with plans to take on more than $10 billion in debt to complete the transaction. Watch this one with me, Fools, but please don't try to make a quick buck on that 20% share-price gap.

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Fool contributor David Lee Smith, an avid reader of his newspaper's sports section, doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He welcomes your comments. The Motley Fool has a strict disclosure policy