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Tribune Publishing on Thursday not only fended off the fury of minority shareholders at its annual meeting but turned heads by announcing a new name, tronc, for "Tribune Online Content." (Poynter)
Initial derision was ample, even overwhelming. "Tribune Co., now ‘tronc,’ issues worst press release in the history of journalism." (The Washington Post) Jon Maas, a Hollywood producer-writer, told me, "It sounds like the love child of 'Tron' and 'Shrek.'" A Chicago reporter friend imagines pissed-off journalists declaring, "TRONC YOU!!!!"
But it's part and parcel of the lofty ambitions of Michael Ferro, a tech entrepreneur and the new boss, who's defiantly rebutting Gannett's hostile takeover attempt, Wall Street skepticism and at least one shareholder lawsuit. His aims are ample and, sources say, include buying the Chicago Sun-Times. He'd been a first-among-equals part-owner until gaining control of Tribune Publishing and setting his interest aside in a trust. Sources confirmed that he recently brought up the notion of buying the whole Sun-Times shebang but was at least temporarily spurned by the board of the paper's corporate parent, Wrapports. Given the Gannett takeover attempt, the board thought it was just not the right time.
But that time may come, with Ferro theoretically then seeking government approval of a so-called joint operating agreement with The Chicago Tribune which he now oversees in his new realm. Its part of an expansionist vision that might include going after a very low-priced newspaper commodity such as McClatchy, say those familiar with his thinking. The hunted may well become a hunter. That's especially so after a multi-billionaire Los Angeles doctor-entrepreneur just backed Ferro with a $70 million investment in Tribune, ah, tronc, or Tronc with a capital "T" for Nieman Lab "because we do not hate our readers...no matter what the company insists." (Nieman Lab) You can find more on all this via the Internet (or the internet, whatever your preferred style).
Hillary fights fire with fire
Her speech on Donald Trump's foreign policy was the oratorical counterpart to a street corner fight punctuated by acidic "Yo Mama!" slights, albeit firmly in a post-Cold War mainstream tradition of foreign policy premises. It was her turn "with the most devastating attack on Trump we have seen," said seeming Trump sympathizer Mika Brzezinski on "Morning Joe" today. "She set in cement a Donald Trump she will run against from here on in," said the show's Mike Barnicle.
Clinton's musings themselves were "a lacerating rebuke" (The New York Times), constituted "mauling her ill-matched Republican foe to shreds" (Slate), showed her throwing "a barrage of stinging one-liners " (POLITICO) and was nothing less than a "savage, mocking evisceration." (CNN) More? It was "a blistering broadside" (Fox), "a withering portrait of his foreign-policy positions as uninformed" (The Wall Street Journal), "a torrent of polished zingers" (Reuters) and "a dramatic escalation of Clinton’s attacks against Trump." (The Atlantic)
Is Gawker headed to bankruptcy?
Speaking to Kara Swisher at a Vox Media conference, Gawker Media boss Nick Denton said, "We're looking at all possible outcomes...and we've hired Mark Patricof [a banker] to advise us on strategic options." (Recode)
SB Nation's screw-up analyzed
The sports website ran a shameful piece on a college football player-turned-police officer convicted of raping multiple women. That led its corporate parent, Vox Media, to assess the mess. A report's "main findings state that a lack of diversity within the staff led to the failure, a deficiency that was exacerbated by the fact that what diversity did exist in the newsroom was concentrated among people who did not feel like they had editorial power to stop decisions they did not agree with." (All Digitocracy)
Joe Buck revealed
When Michelle Beisner, an NFL Network reporter and former Denver Broncos cheerleader, was told by a colleague that "somebody in the booth wants your number," she was living with a guy. But she asked if it was Chris Collinsworth, Troy Aikman, even Al Michaels. When told it was once-divorced Joe Buck, lead NFL and baseball announcer for Fox, she was nonplussed. Buck “had this look on his face that seemed so smug and arrogant.” And that remains the image of Buck — perhaps until you read a very fine tell-most, if not tell-all profile of "America's most underappreciated broadcaster" in The Ringer. (The Ringer)
Learn how the seemingly dorky and analytically minimalist Buck, 47 and the son of a late and famous St. Louis Cardinals announcer, got tattoos to impress Beisner, to whom he's now married. How he "drops f-bombs with abandon" when not on the air. How he's sporting a beard these days (a very unusual move for an on-air announcer) And how an imperious air is a function of defensiveness and response to harsh criticism his famous dad received at the end of his career for on-air comments during national broadcasts, like his declaring that singer Bobby Vinton's botching of a National Anthem proved, "If you’re Polish and you’re from Pittsburgh, you can do anything you want with the words.”
The son's mantra became to not reveal much of himself. “The stuff that flies through my mind — the critical stuff, the funny stuff — I just swallow 95 percent of it, because it’s just not worth the bullshit that comes with it." And this: “You just can’t say anything. If you say the sky is blue, people are going to say, ‘What shade of blue is it, asshole?’”
Bryan Curtis weaves an engaging tale for which one doesn't need a doctorate in psychology to divine what makes Buck tick and why. Imagine this childhood: "Buck was born to be a ruthless self-editor. He’s known as the heir of Jack Buck, the voice of the St. Louis Cardinals. In fact, Joe was Jack’s seventh child, and the first from Jack’s second marriage. Joe remembers trips to the first family’s house to drop off alimony checks. 'I could just sense I was in a place where I really wasn’t welcome,' he said. Joe’s mom, Carole, felt so much tension that Jack gave her a bracelet. The inscription read, 'So What?'"
As a kid, he'd go with his dad to the old Busch Stadium where he'd play catch with the children of Cardinals players. But "trailing his dad to road games, he’d see the same players squiring around mistresses. Jack — who called his son by his surname — would say, 'Put your head down, Buck. Keep walkin.'" He recalls now, “I didn’t run home and tell my mom about it. I just kind of took it all in.” Bottom line: you cannot tell a book, or a seemingly dork-like play-by-play sports announcer, by a cover.
Facebook notifies that Notify is dead
"Facebook’s attempt at a real-time, notification-based news app is shutting down." (TechCrunch) It told users, “Thanks for using Notify. We’re transitioning parts of Notify into other Facebook products, and the app will no longer be supported.” This let you get news heads-ups from more than 70 publishers. But there wasn't a lot of interest. Even Mark Zuckerberg is wrong sometimes.
Back in Paul Ryan's hometown
House Speaker Paul Ryan knows where his bread is buttered and thus chose his local newspaper, the Janesville, Wisconsin Gazette to announce his endorsement of Donald Trump. (Gazette) Fine. All politics is local, blah, blah, blah. But he didn't get much love today. "Morning Joe's" Brzezinski was in high dudgeon and called the backing "pathetic," "weak," and "a sellout." The Washington Post editorialized that Ryan has "capitulated to ugliness." (The Washington Post)
But dwelling on that story meant you might have missed how "Janesville police on Thursday released surveillance video footage in hopes the public can help identify a woman who robbed a Stop-N-Go store Saturday." (Gazette) Or how "The gravestone of a police officer who died last fall was vandalized at Janesville's Mount Olivet Cemetery last week." (Gazette) And how "A crowd gathered in the apparatus room for a ceremony to celebrate the Janesville Fire Department's new Central Fire Station facility." (Gazette).
Oh, then there was, "Rep. Paul Ryan, the powerful speaker of the House, chairman of the Republican National Convention and a household name in his district, not to mention the rest of the country, still faces opposition for re-election." (Gazette) "Opposition comes in his own party as well as from Democrats and others in Ryan's bid for election to a ninth term." But he probably shouldn't worry. When I called the newsroom, it wasn't sure who'd won Rock County in Wisconsin's GOP presidential primary. But I checked and it was Trump over Ted Cruz. Ryan's Aug. 9 primary opponent is a manufacturing executive-inventor.
Free speech under attack
"In a sense, this is a golden age for free speech. Your smartphone can call up newspapers from the other side of world in seconds. More than a billion tweets, Facebook posts and blog updates are published every single day. Anyone with access to the internet can be a publisher, and anyone who can reach Wikipedia enters a digital haven where America’s First Amendment reigns. However, watchdogs report that speaking out is becoming more dangerous—and they are right. As our report shows, curbs on free speech have grown tighter. Without the contest of ideas, the world is timid and ignorant. (The Economist) Why? It says government repression is increasing, censorship is being enforced by assassinations and a belief is growing that individuals and groups have a "right not to be offended."
Meanwhile, BuzzFeed boss Ben Smith last night issued a call for a new First Amendment statement for social platforms. "For this trust to endure, these platforms must be transparent about their own policies and be consistent in their enforcement. Fortunately, experimenting platforms do not need to start from scratch." (Medium)
A focus on African-American heritage
"There’s a mild resistance these days, at least on my part, to open the print version of something," writes Ralph Gardner Jr. "What am I going to learn that I didn’t already see or read on my phone or computer hours ago?" (The Wall Street Journal) Nevertheless, he was blown away by “Vision & Justice,” the theme of the new quarterly issue of Aperture, which is devoted to photography of the African-American experience. "It was almost as if I was thrust back in time to the 1960s, when one would anticipate the arrival of the new issue of Life or Look magazine. You appreciated that photography held the power to transport you someplace exotic." By coincidence, Ta-Nehisi Coates' latest big opus is on the state of black writers, making the case that many of the wounds of black journalists are self-inflicted. (The Atlantic)
Tweet of the day
After Ryan took to his local paper, historian Michael Beschloss reminded us, "Lyndon Johnson endorsed George McGovern in 1972 with tepid statement to his local Texas Hill Country newspaper." (@BeschlossDC) Oh, well, whether in Janesville or somewhere in Texas, read the local paper and have a good weekend.
Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin
Mizell Stewart III is now Vice President of News Operations for USA TODAY Network. Previously, he was managing director and chief content officer of Journal Media Group. (Email) | Job of the day: LifeZette is looking for a political reporter. Get your resumes in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves: email@example.com