Monday, June 6, 2016

Michael Ferro and the Worst News Release. Ever.

To:  Michael Ferro, Chairman
      Tribune Publishing, a.k.a., tronc
cc: Blog Readers
Subject: Invitation: How to Communicate

Dear Mike:

I invite you and your communications team to drop by my office at the university. 

My schedule's
Chicago Tribune Building,
By Stuart Seeger [CC BY 2.0
via Wikimedia Commons
flexible 'til late August. But act fast. Because as your company transforms to some digital communications-moneymaking internet punchline, your recent news release tells me Tribune Publishing has lost its grasp of how to communicate in English.

Your June 2 news release, Tribune Publishing Announces Corporate Rebranding, Changes Name to Tronc, sets a new low in incomprehensible jargon. Experienced PR people write releases that readers will understand. The writer who pumped out this horrid excuse for a press release has no grasp of this. 

It's perfectly fine to re-brand a company. Gannett split into a print news media company called "Gannett," and Tegna, which focuses on broadcast and digital media (and sounds like a Swedish mouthwash). 

You may be in the communications business. But, your news release isn't. It's somewhere near the Andromeda galaxy:

"tronc, Inc., a content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium, verified content across all channels." 

Congratulations on completely baffling your readers. Content curation? I hope that means someone's going to write or film stories, then edit and post them. Monetization? I've flunked students for grafting "-ization" and "-ize" to nouns. Every business wants to make money, Mike. Monetization? Please, lose this befuddling excuse for a real English word.

Last time I heard this much techno-babble, I was watching an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

I'm not providing a line-by-line, buzzword-by-buzzword dissection of your news release in this space. That's unfair to readers, Mike. You remember readers, don't you? They're the ones you hope will pay for the "world-class (buzzword) content" your newspapers and media properties produce. Drop by, we'll grab a conference room, and I'll show you why this spewage* is viewed by experienced public relations professionals as top contender for the Worst News Release. Ever.

Never mind those lambasting your choice of the lower-case brand name "tronc." ("Tronic," as in electronic, might have been a wiser choice.) But, call yourself whatever you like. FerroLand. FerroNews. Be creative. 

Never mind that you've hitched your media star to a so-called digital visionary, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, whom 60 Minutes portrayed in 2014 as a billionaire entrepreneur who makes more than his share of grandiose claims. (Reminds me of a certain presidential candidate, but with less pouting.)

These are your issues to solve, Mike. Mine are different. I care about saving the English language from jargon addicted hack writers like the one who cranked out your news release. 

So, my door's open. The nearest airport for your Gulfstream is in Hinsdale, NY, 15 miles from the campus. Call ahead, I'll come pick you up.

But, do it today. Because the internet has had a week's worth of fun at the expense of your rebranding announcement. 

And I plan to use your news release as Example One of What Not to Write in the public relations courses this fall.

*I wish I'd actually coined "spewage," but others have beaten me to it