So long and no thanks for the tronc

From the L.A. Times newsroom party – good riddance “tronc”. (Twitter/Jen Yamato/LA Times)

Named expected to change back to Tribune Publishing after sale of LA Times, Ferro departure

One of the most ridiculous names in media history is heading into the history books after two years.

In a move approved last month, the parent company of the Chicago Tribune is reverting back to Tribune Publishing, after a disastrous  stint under the name “tronc”.

The move comes as the sale of Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune closed Monday with former tronc board member Patrick-Soon Shiong for $500 million, leaving the company with ten main newspapers. The original Tribune Co. purchased the Times in 2002 from Times Mirror and twelve years later, Tribune split into two publicly traded companies: Tribune Media and Tribune Publishing, the latter becoming “tronc” in June 2016.

Tronc stood for “Tribune Online Content”, created by Ferro himself meant to highlight the shift away from news print and toward digital content. But over time, it became a symbol of everything wrong with the newspaper industry, from disappointing revenues to layoffs to sexual harassment allegations, the latter committed by now ex-chairman Michael Ferro. He departed tronc in March – hours before an expose was published detailing sexual harassment changes against him.

The renaming drew scorn across social media when it was announced and famously skewed by Last Week Tonight host John Oliver as he took apart a corporate video no one understood. When the name change was announced, “tronc” meant “a content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium, verified content across all channels.”

As I noted on this blog in 2016: Judging by the stuff I’m seeing in the Tribune lately, sitting around waiting for a shooting to happen in Englewood isn’t exactly what I call “creating content”. Reporting on a murder, a game, or the state budget impasse isn’t the same as being an artist, writing a book or a script, or creating a video game. By Ferro’s definition, criminals, idiot politicians, and Donald Trump running his mouth are the ones who are “creating content” for “tronc”. Ferro has no f—ing idea what “creating content” means.

The low point came during the 2016 NLCS between the Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers when a vapid intern at the Los Angeles Times took a shot at Chicago’s homicide rate in response to an L.A. -bashing article written by the equally vapid Rex Huppke –  – the type of “content” tronc was peddling.

Even worse, the tweet came after three people were shot and killed in Los Angeles the day before the tweet was made – insulting minority inner-city communities plagued by violence in both cities. I guess this was “the future of content” tronc was talking about.

Unfortunately, the name (and the antics) overshadowed the great investigative work the papers – the Chicago Tribune included – did on numerous pressing issues,  notably the Tribune’s multi-part series on sexual abuse in the Chicago Public School system. With the nitwits running tronc gone – and the name changing back to Tribune Publishing, the people who work on these types of stories now have a chance to shine without any side distraction. The tronc name is more associated with the dysfunction of the company than great investigative reporting.

I guess you can say tronc got tronc’d.