“Editorial, You’re F***ed”


“Editorial, You’re F***ed”

Illustration: Saachi Mehta/ Arré


arlier this week, I woke up to the news that the future of journalism is a hellish dystopia of cyber-Orwellian buzzwords, smug Silicon Valley technobabble, and a Biblical flood of video embeds. “Well, duh!” I hear you say. Journalists, editors, in fact anyone invested in the idea of ethical, responsible journalism has had this same recurring nightmare for years, waking up screaming in a pool of their own sweat at least once a fortnight. But this week the nightmare became terrifyingly real. And its name is Tronc.
Three weeks ago, Tribune Publishing – the reputed American media company that owns a number of local newspapers including the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune – rebranded itself as Tronc. Short for ‘Tribune Online Content’, Tronc is supposed to sound hip and high-tech, just like the company’s plans for a new, futuristic journalism (more on that later). Instead, it sounds like a neologism for a tech-illiterate management that has no idea what it’s doing. It’s not hard to imagine the highly paid branding consultant who sold them on the idea walking out of their office and telling his boss, “I can’t believe those old troncs fell for it.” Alternatively, it’s the sound your smartphone makes when you throw it at the ground, much like the company’s tech disruption fantasy meeting the cold, hard concrete of reality. Twitter’s comedians have had a field day with the word, suggesting new definitions or wondering if it’s a reference to the reefer – the people in charge of rebranding were almost certainly smoking.

Not content with troncing themselves once, the company followed it up with two horrifying videos to explain this new vision to their employees, and motivate them with the cheerful reminder that “change is mandatory, but survival isn’t”. You can watch the videos below, but let me take you through the key points. The first video starts with Tronc’s chief technology officer Malcolm CasSelle telling us, “This is the future of journalism. This is the future of content.” He’s wearing the smile of an IT guy who’s suddenly been handed the keys to the kingdom and is already contemplating his revenge on reporters who can’t learn how to use the goddamn printer. “It’s about meeting in the middle,” adds Tronc chief digital officer Anne Vasquez in the video. “Having a tech start-up culture meet a legacy corporate culture and then evolving and changing.” As somebody who’s worked in a tech start-up, let me translate that for you: “Editorial, you’re fucked.”