Stop the presses: tronc if you love Ferro

Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune

How did we ever get from the “World’s Greatest Newspaper” to this?

On Thursday, Chairman Michael W. Ferro Jr. changed the name of Tribune Publishing to tronc — yes, tronc — a move that engendered nearly universal revulsion and ridicule.



Effective June 20, the parent company of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other distinguished bastions of American journalism will be known by a one-syllable, lowercase, guttural discharge meant to symbolize “tribune online content.”

What’s more, employees who previously identified with their respective newspapers got official word from their new bosses that they’re now working for “a content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium, verified content across all channels.” Yep, that’s tronc!

As corporate names go, it’s even worse than Wrapports, which Ferro inflicted on the Sun-Times before the self-styled tech entrepreneur began his five-year reign of failure there. That name (which at least was given the dignity of a capital letter) was meant to signify “the ‘rapport’ of new technology and the ‘wrapping’ of a traditional print newspaper.”

Michael Ferro

Michael Ferro

“Our industry requires an innovative approach and a fundamentally different way of operating,” Ferro said in a statement Thursday. “Our transformation strategy – which has attracted over $114 million in growth capital – is focused on leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the user experience and better monetize our world-class content in order to deliver personalized content to our 60 million monthly users and drive value for all of our stakeholders. Our rebranding to tronc represents the manner in which we will pool our technology and content resources to execute on our strategy.”

What’s most unfortunate isn’t the godawful name Ferro just slapped on a 168-year-old legacy company he now controls. Nor is it the tacky, ’70s-era logo he unveiled along with it.

To me the saddest and scariest thing is that there’s no one honest enough and close enough to Ferro to tell him when he’s making a very, very bad mistake.

Here is the internal memo to employees from CEO Justin Dearborn:

Today, I am pleased to announce another important step in our transformation – the renaming of our Company to tronc, or tribune online content. At our core, we remain a content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium, verified content across all channels. This rebranding acknowledges our important evolution as a company and captures the essence of our vision for the future.
Tribune Publishing has a proud history, with iconic brands that remain the core of who we are.  But as we are all well-aware, the media industry is shifting rapidly, and the path to success requires an innovative new approach and a fundamentally different way of operating.  
We are embracing this evolution with open arms and executing a transformation strategy focused on leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to create an interactive and customized user experience to benefit our 60 million monthly users. It has been a busy time – in just a few short months, we have already made significant progress, including:

Reorganizing the business into new operating and reporting units to increase transparency and drive corporate focus;

Launching troncX, our content curation and monetization engine, which combines our existing assets with new artificial intelligence (“AI”) technology to accelerate our digital growth; and

Partnering with Nant Capital and Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong to accelerate the transformation from a legacy news company to a technology and content company.
Renaming the Company is the logical next step in this journey and underscores our commitment to completely transform the business – and the industry – and to continue to best serve our readers and the communities in which we operate.
We will be communicating with you often over the coming weeks about the mechanics of the transition process.  Importantly, this change does not impact the name of our proud and iconic brands.
As part of this announcement, we also announced that the Company will be transferring its stock exchange listing from the New York Stock Exchange to the Nasdaq Stock Exchange.  tronc shares are expected to begin trading as a Nasdaq-listed security under the new ticker symbol “TRNC” on June 20.  Nasdaq is the home to many other leading innovators and technology companies, providing the ideal platform for tronc shares. 
Separately, you may have also seen that our Annual Meeting of Shareholders was held earlier today in Los Angeles.  We are pleased to announce that shareholders elected all of the Company’s nominees.  On behalf of the Board, we are grateful for the support of our shareholders, and look forward to continuing to serve their best interests as we execute our strategic plan. 
Importantly, the majority of voting shareholders rejected Gannett’s symbolic, feeble and expensive withhold campaign.  We cannot speculate as to what Gannett may choose to do as a result of this rejection, but the best thing we can do is to stay focused on the important work we have underway.  I sincerely hope that the Gannett shareholders begin to express their displeasure to the Gannett Board regarding the corporate waste that has been perpetrated these past six weeks with their massive spend on this emblematic campaign.  Gannet’s interest in our Company only reinforces the high value of our innovation and strategic vision. 
This is an incredibly exciting time as we continue to transform our Company and industry.  As we start this new chapter as tronc, I want to thank each of you for the hard work and dedication that has allowed us to create a better future for our Company. 
Thank you for all that you do. 

Justin Dearborn