"From Pixels to Pulitzers"
Tronc, Inc. (stylized as tronc; formerly Tribune Publishing) is an American newspaper print and online media publishing company based in Chicago, Illinois whose majority owner and Non-Executive Chairman is the American business magnate Michael W. Ferro, Jr., whom, in 2016, The New York Times described as being "one of the country’s most significant and unpredictable media moguls" and whose goal is for Tronc to produce 2,000 videos a day using artificial intelligence, and with Ferro further stating that "the role of Tronc is to transform journalism, from pixels to Pulitzers".
Among other publications, the company's portfolio includes the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune, the New York Daily News, the Hartford Courant, the Orlando Sentinel, South Florida's Sun-Sentinel, and The Baltimore Sun. It also publishes several local newspapers in these metropolitan regions, which are organized in subsidiary groups. It is the nation's third-largest newspaper publisher (behind Gannett and The McClatchy Company), with eleven daily newspapers and commuter tabloids located throughout the United States.
Originally incorporated in 1847 with the founding of the Chicago Tribune, Tribune Publishing formerly operated as a division of the Tribune Company, a Chicago-based multimedia conglomerate, until it was spun off into a separate public company in August 2014.
On June 20, 2016, the company adopted the name tronc, short for "Tribune online content". It is 17.9% majority-owned by Michael W. Ferro, Jr.
Tronc's history dates back to 1847, when the Chicago Tribune (for which the company and its former parent, Tribune Media, are named) published its first edition on June 10 of that year, in a one-room plant located at LaSalle and Lake Streets in Chicago. The Tribune constructed its first building, a four-story structure at Dearborn and Madison Streets, in 1869; however the building was destroyed, along with most of the city, by the Great Chicago Fire in October 1871. The Tribune resumed printing two days later with an editorial declaring "Chicago Shall Rise Again". The newspaper's editor and part-owner, Joseph Medill, was elected mayor and led the city's reconstruction. A native Ohioan who first acquired an interest in the Tribune in 1855, Medill gained full control of the newspaper in 1874 and ran it until his death in 1899.
Medill's two grandsons, cousins Robert R. McCormick and Joseph Medill Patterson, assumed leadership of the company in 1911. That same year, the Chicago Tribune's first newsprint mill opened in Thorold, Ontario, Canada. The mill marked the beginnings of the Canadian newsprint producer later known as QUNO, in which Tribune held an investment interest until 1995. The Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate was formed in 1918, leading to Joseph Patterson's establishment of the company's second newspaper, the New York Daily News on June 26, 1919. Tribune's ownership of the New York City tabloid was considered "interlocking" due to an agreement between McCormick and Patterson.
The company acquired the Fort Lauderdale-based Sun-Sentinel newspaper in 1963; this was later followed by its purchase of the Orlando Sentinel in 1965. In 1973, the company began sharing stories among 25 subscriber newspapers via the newly formed news service, the Knight News Wire. By 1990, this service was known as Knight-Ridder/Tribune and provided graphics, photo and news content to its member newspapers. KRT became McClatchy-Tribune Information Services, which is jointly owned by the Tribune Company and McClatchy, when The McClatchy Company purchased Knight-Ridder Inc. in 2006. Tribune later acquired the Newport News, Virginia-based Daily Press in 1986. In the wake of a dispute with some of its labor unions, the New York Daily News was sold to British businessman Robert Maxwell in 1991.
In June 2000, Tribune acquired the Los Angeles-based Times Mirror Company in a merger deal worth $8.3 billion, which was the largest acquisition in the history of the newspaper industry. The merger added seven daily newspapers to Tribune's portfolio, including the Los Angeles Times, the Long Island-based Newsday, The Baltimore Sun and the Hartford Courant. Tribune Media Net, the national advertising sales organization of Tribune Publishing, was established in 2000 to take advantage of the company's expanded scale and scope.
Later in the decade, Tribune launched daily newspapers targeting urban commuters, including the Chicago Tribune's RedEye edition in 2002, followed by an investment in AM New York one year later. In 2006, Tribune acquired the minority equity interest in AM New York, giving it full ownership of the newspaper. The company sold both Newsday and AM New York to Cablevision Systems Corporation in 2008, with the sale of the latter paper closing on July 29 of that year.
On April 2, 2007, Chicago-based investor Sam Zell announced plans to buy out the Tribune Company for $34.00 a share, totaling $8.2 billion, with intentions to take the company private. The deal was approved by 97% of the company's shareholders on August 21, 2007. Privatization of the Tribune Company occurred on December 20, 2007 with Tribune's stock listing being terminated at the close of the trading day.
On December 8, 2008, faced with a high debt load totaling $13 billion, related to the company's leveraged buyout and subsequent privatization, and a sharp downturn in newspaper advertising revenue, Tribune filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in what was the largest bankruptcy in the history of the American media industry. Company plans originally called for it to emerge from bankruptcy by May 31, 2010, but the company would end up in protracted bankruptcy proceedings for four years.
On July 13, 2012, the Tribune Company received approval of a reorganization plan to allow the company to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a Delaware bankruptcy court. Oaktree Capital Management, JPMorgan Chase and Angelo, Gordon & Co., which were the company's senior debt holders, assumed control of Tribune's properties upon the company's exit from bankruptcy on December 31, 2012.
On February 26, 2013, Tribune reportedly hired investment firms Evercore Partners and J.P. Morgan & Co. to oversee the sale of its newspapers. On July 10, 2013, Tribune announced that it would split into two companies, spinning off its publishing division into the Tribune Publishing Company. Its broadcasting, digital media and other assets (including Tribune Media Services, which among others, provides news and features content for Tribune's newspapers) would remain with the Tribune Company. On November 20, 2013, Tribune announced it would cut 700 jobs from its newspaper properties due to declining advertising revenues.
On June 17, 2014, in a presentation for lenders, Tribune revealed that it had set August 4 as the target date for its spin-off of Tribune Publishing. The split was finalized on the target date, with the publishing arm being spun out as Tribune Publishing Company, and its former parent company being renamed Tribune Media.
Tribune Publishing acquired 6 suburban daily and 32 weekly newspapers in the Chicago Metropolitan Area in October 2014. These acquisitions were similar in strategy to earlier acquisitions in the state of Maryland, expanding its footprint in its eight "core markets."
On May 7, 2015, Tribune Publishing announced that it had reached a deal to acquire the San Diego Union-Tribune and its associated properties for $85 million, ending the paper's 146 years of private ownership. Following the completion of the acquisition, the Union-Tribune and the Los Angeles Times became part of a new operating entity known as the California News Group, led by current Times publisher and CEO Timothy E. Ryan. The two papers will retain distinct operations, but there will be a larger amount of synergy and content sharing between them. The acquisition did not include the paper's headquarters, which remains owned by the paper's previous owner, Doug Manchester.
In April 2016, Gannett Company (which, much like Tribune, had spun out its broadcasting properties into a separate firm to focus on publishing assets) made an unsolicited bid to acquire Tribune Publishing for $12.25 per-share, or around $400 million. This deal was rejected by Tribune's shareholders in May 2016; in turn, Gannett increased its offer to around $15 per-share (around $800 million). On May 17, 2016, Tribune CEO Michael Ferro stated that he intended to make a bid to acquire Gannett instead.
On November 1, 2016, Gannett announced that it would no longer pursue its acquisition of Tronc.
On June 2, 2016, the company announced that it would rebrand itself as tronc, short for "Tribune online content". The rebranding took place on June 20, 2016. Tronc began trading on NASDAQ under the symbol TRNC.
That day, chief technology officer Malcolm CasSelle and chief digital officer Anne Vasquez announced to employees initiatives in content optimization, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and increasing the amount of video to 50% of all content by 2017, in an effort to increase reader engagement and ad revenue. The company also introduced a new slogan, From Pixels to Pulitzers. The video announcement was widely derided in social and print media as full of buzzwords and lacking substance. On August 7, 2016, while criticising several aspects of a corporate restructuring that went along with the rebranding (for instance a shift of focus away from hard news towards usage maximization, which he perceived as undue), satirist John Oliver mocked this new name as "the sound an ejaculating elephant makes", and (ironically) "the sound of a stack of newspapers hitting a dumpster."
On March 13, 2017, Tronc announced that it would be the first third party to license Arc, the digital publishing system of The Washington Post.
On September 4, 2017, Tronc announced that it had acquired the New York Daily News. Having been established in 1919 by the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate, the Daily News had been owned by the Tribune Company before its sale to Robert Maxwell in 1991 and then to Mortimer Zuckerman in 1993. Tronc purchased the New York Daily News for $1 plus the assumption of its liabilities.
Media related to Tribune Company at Wikimedia Commons