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John Oliver Calls Out Tronc (And All Of Us) In Brilliant State Of Journalism Critique

By Stephen Gossett in News on Aug 8, 2016 4:05PM

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

John Oliver delivered a hilarious and scarily incisive segment about the beleaguered state of journalism in 2016 on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight. With a mixture of righteous indignation and fart jokes that would make his old boss John Stewart proud, he cataloged a host of woes that include everything from lack of investment for “unsexy,” local shoe-leather reporting to the public’s own free-or-nothing habits of news consumption. But it was Oliver’s chosen face for the potential pitfalls of private investment and vacuous “content optimization” that Chicago viewers may have noticed most. We speak, of course, of Sam Zell and tronc.

The segment includes a clip of “billionaire investor and living garden gnome” Zell outlining his editorial plan for Tribune Publishing (“puppies and Iraq”), punctuated by a casual “fuck you” to the journalist who had the “arrogance” to exhibit concern that reporters should maybe, possibly focus on more hard news, too? Of course, everything quickly soured under Zell’s tenure; and the Tribune Company’s response has fared nearly as poorly: a much-mocked rebranding as tronc —a near-Orwellian concept of self-generated content and vapid brand-speak, or, as Oliver puts it, “the noise an ejaculating elephant makes” and “the sound of a stack of print newspapers being thrown into a dumpster.”

There’s plenty more to Oliver’s no-one-is-innocent critique, and it's well worth your full 20 minutes.