Both women say they were drawn to these late night meetings by the promise of financial reward—further investment and connections for Minshew; a potential partnership and possibly even a lucrative job for Kappler. After these encounters, both described being frightened and taken by surprise, as well as fearing that their business ventures were in jeopardy.
Minshew and Kappler, who are now speaking about their experiences on the record for the first time, encountered Ferro through his work as an investor and dealmaker. But his sphere of influence and power increased over the past couple of years after he became the non-executive chairman and largest shareholder of Tronc, the publishing powerhouse that includes iconic titles like the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News, and the Baltimore Sun.
On Monday, Ferro announced that he was retiring from the board of directors of Tronc, and that CEO Justin Dearborn would succeed him as chairman. Ferro will still be paid $5 million-per-year by Tronc through Dec. 31, 2020, to serve as a consultant.
Consultant on what, exactly? What on earth could possibly be the value he provides? For years we’ve been told our newspapers are transforming into more nimble, digital-first enterprises focused on the internet because all us terrible dastardly readers didn’t want to pay for news anymore, and all it’s ever seemed to mean is cutting days, cutting staff, cutting the physical size of the paper down to a pamphlet and propping up a website that heaves with pop-ups.
This is the Chicago Tribune’s front page today, without Ad Blocker running.
Where is the news? What am I supposed to look at? Where is the name of the goddamn paper? Why did my browser just empty both barrels into itself?
When Ad Blocker does run, the little SIGN UP TODAY! pop-up is still there, the menus are still tiny and I don’t see how laying off a bunch of reporters fixes this problem. In fact, the more reporters that get laid off, the dumber this shit seems to become. Subscribing doesn’t get me an ad-free experience. It just gets me access to the articles if I can find them under all the sponcon and automotive pimping going on.
If this is the indispensable knowledge for which Ferro’s employees were expected to endure his sad, middle-aged advances, it sucks.
Whenever there’s a round of layoffs, as there was last week, journalists jump on Twitter to sanctimoniously lecture everybody about how if we all paid for news none of this would be happening. WHICH ISN’T THE GODDAMN CASE. We could all pay for news tomorrow at the rates people subscribed to print in the 1940s and anuses like Ferro would still siphon it all off to snort blow off a hooker’s tits.
It’s easier to yell at imaginary readers online than it is to yell at your bosses to adequately value what you do for a living over their own venal, sexually harassative interests. But the boards who hire disgusting pigs like Ferro for their supposedly irreplaceable genius and pay them like they’re worth anything more than a wooden nickel and a punt in the junk need to hear that there are people in the industry starting to see through this bullshit.
In the end corporate ownership and hedge fund-backed chain management have done damage to journalism the internet could only dream of doing, taking money away from the things it could pay for to throw at “consultants” who are just trying to bang the interns.