U.S. Websites Go Dark in Europe as GDPR Data Rules Kick In

Keystone Chicago Tribune
Keystone – Chicago Tribune

Speaking of the GDPR, the WSJ reports:

Europe’s new privacy law took effect Friday, causing major U.S. news websites to suspend access across the region as data-protection regulators prepare to brandish their new enforcement powers.

Tronc Inc., publisher of the Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News and other U.S. newspapers [Chicago Tribune], was among those that blocked readers in the European Union from accessing sites, as they scrambled to comply with the sweeping regulation.

“We are engaged on the issue and committed to looking at options that support our full range of digital offerings to the EU market,” the company said in notices it displayed when users attempted to access its news sites from the EU on Friday morning.

Others U.S. regional newspapers owned by Lee Enterprises Inc., as well as bookmarking app Instapaper, owned by Pinterest. Inc., were also blocking access in the EU.

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation foresees steep fines for companies that don’t comply with the new rules, aimed at giving Europe-based users more control over the data companies hold on them.

(click here to continue reading U.S. Websites Go Dark in Europe as GDPR Data Rules Kick In – WSJ.)

Tronc and many other digital news organizations are among the worst offenders of collecting information on consumers. Using this article at the WSJ as an example, Ghostery reports 24 different cookies/trackers being served to a reader, from Facebook, Google, DoubleClick, and so on. I’m a subscriber, and WSJ still allows companies like Bombora to shovel my information into their corporate maws.

Going to a random Chicago Tribune article, say for instance “Let’s hear it for Memorial Day weekend at the beach. Oh, but the litter …”, and Tronc is serving me, a subscriber, 18 cookies/trackers from various entities, like Amazon, Google, and a plethora I’ve never heard of. My print newspaper doesn’t track me like this.

So, I’m not surprised that many news organizations are not in compliance with the new GDPR regulations, I’m only saddened that the US doesn’t have a similar protection for consumers. Savvier consumers can install anti-tracking services, like Ghostery, but what about everyone else?

Tribune gets Troncked

Tribune Tower
Tribune Tower

World class editor’s note: from the Nieman Journalism Lab’s Ken Doctor

In a move that, even amid all the nastiness of the Tribune/Gannett war, we would still have to consider stunning, Tribune Publishing has renamed itself — to tronc. In a memo to Tribune staff this afternoon, CEO Justin Dearborn wrote:

Today, I am pleased to announce another important step in our transformation — the renaming of our Company to tronc, or tribune online content. At our core, we remain a content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium, verified content across all channels. This rebranding acknowledges our important evolution as a company and captures the essence of our vision for the future.

Editor’s note: Because we do not hate our readers, Nieman Lab style from here on out will be a capitalized Tronc, no matter what the company insists — just as we have long killed the exclamation point in Yahoo and refused to render “Politico” in all caps, and just as we sliced out the old slash in Recode before that company came around to the same idea.

In a war of corporate naming, it’s apparently a race to the bottom. Tronc joins the two-year-old ex-Gannett broadcast company Tegna [or TEGNA! —Ed.] in the pantheon of odd corporate naming. Fast followers of the Tribune Publishing saga will recall that a month ago Tribune chairman Michael Ferro and his hand-picked CEO Justin Dearborn had outlined Tribune’s latest turnaround strategy around a Tronc “content monetization engine.” Now Tronc — a logo and an idea on a whiteboard — has swallowed Tribune itself. Tribunites become Troncites.

(click here to continue reading Tribune gets Troncked: A reader’s guide to the Tribune/Gannett war » Nieman Journalism Lab.)

Tronc is probably the most ridiculous name I’ve encountered in a while. I’m guessing Michael Ferro came up with it in a fever dream, but I could be wrong. Maybe they focus-grouped Tronc for 6 weeks, and this is the best the Tribune brain trust could come up with.

Sam Zell Ranks Last Among Tribune Creditors

Rich Play - Poor Pay - Chicago Tribune
Rich Play – Poor Pay – Chicago Tribune

Still too high if you ask me1

Samuel Zell, the real-estate mogul behind the disastrous leveraged buyout that plunged Tribune Co. into bankruptcy, came out the biggest loser in an inter-creditor fight over expected payouts from the Chapter 11 proceeding.

Judge Kevin Carey of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., found Mr. Zell’s investment ranked dead last in the Chapter 11 payment priority competition, “at the bottom of Tribune’s capital structure.” Mr. Zell’s claims are junior to $759 million of claims from holders of the so-called Phones notes, the judge said.

Mr. Zell has labeled the Tribune LBO “the deal from hell.” The two-step transaction in 2007 piled an additional $8 billion in debt on the publishing and broadcasting operation, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy less than a year later. Tribune publishes the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other newspapers as well as TV stations.

(click here to continue reading Sam Zell Ranks Last Among Tribune Creditors – WSJ.com.)


  1. or numerous people who work, or once worked, for Mama Tribune []

The Times Plans Local Edition in Chicago, SF


Three Is the Magic Number
[Three Is the Magic Number]

The New York Times is making plans for editions of the paper tailored to the Chicago area and other metropolitan markets, in addition to the San Francisco edition it plans to launch this fall.

“We’re in conversations with potential news providers in Chicago about adding local content to The Times,” said Diane C. McNulty, a spokeswoman for The Times. “Our intent is to roll out these expanded reports in several key markets around the country, with Chicago following San Francisco. The details are still being discussed. The idea is to provide additional quality local content for our readers.”

Plans for the San Francisco edition call for adding to the paper, twice a week, two additional pages of news about northern California. At first, the added content will be produced by The Times’ own writers and editors. But eventually, the plan, as in Chicago, is to turn the production over to a local partner.

[From The Times Plans Local Edition in Chicago, Too, and Other Markets – Media Decoder Blog – NYTimes.com]

Speaking for myself, I’d probably enhance my NYT subscription to include weekdays when this happens1. The Chicago Tribune has shrunk its news hole so drastically that reading the entire front section takes about 9 minutes, on a good day. Some days there are about 150 words of interest to me in the whole paper. Chicago sports is still multiple pages, of course, but who gives a rats ass about the Bears or the Cubs? Not I. There are much better sports writers on the web anyway, especially for the one sport I follow2. The Tribune brain-trust has decided that the only way for profitability is to fire/retire all of the actual reporters, and make the paper easier to browse while sitting on the bus. Shorter stories, more pictures, more entertainment news. Bleh. The New York Times, on the other hand, is still filled with words in complex sentences, and not just pretty3 graphics. I may disagree with the NYT on various topics, but it is the best newspaper now being published.

Will be very interested to see how this shakes out. Will the Tribune counter this incursion by increasing their news collection? Or just continue fading into irrelevance? My subscription to the Tribune lapsed last week, and I struggled with the decision to renew it or not. I decided I would give them one more year to figure out their audience, so we’ll see.

Newspapers should focus on what they do best: collecting & analyzing data about our society and world, and stop tarting themselves up to attract 19 year old boys who can’t read anyway.

  1. currently I only get the Saturday/Sunday package []
  2. The NBA if you’ve forgotten []
  3. vacant – oh private joke []

Reading Around on August 25th through August 27th

A few interesting links collected August 25th through August 27th:

  • Mac OS X Automation: Services Downloads – Download free services. Service collections are grouped by color. Some services will install required Automator actions and may require an adminstrator password to do so.”
  • One_Billion_Dollar_Daley_Chicago_Reader.jpg
  • Chicago vice – chicagotribune.com – Chicago Police Sgt. John F. Mangin displays a bushel of marijuana leaves and a jar of ground marijuana found Sept. 27, 1945, in a flat at 601 W. Madison St.. Six men were arrested in the narcotics bust, including a 60-year-old man that Mangin said was the first person he arrested when he joined the narcotics detail in 1931.

Tribune Bondholders Fault Zell Takeover

Sam Zell might rue the day he impulsively decided to purchase the Tribune Corporation

Happy 4th of July -Wrigley, Chicago Tribune tower

Disgruntled Tribune Co. bondholders have asked a U.S. bankruptcy judge to let them investigate Sam Zell’s 2007 buyout of the newspaper-and-television chain in an effort to derail a plan that would hand the company over to its banks.

The filing, made late Wednesday, calls the $8.2 billion transaction a “fraudulent conveyance” that left Tribune insolvent from the onset of the 2007 deal. It accuses senior lenders led by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. of completing a leveraged buyout they should have known would push the company into bankruptcy.

Fraudulent conveyance” is a legal term most often used in bankruptcy court, in which creditors allege a company has used assets in a way unfair to creditors. In the context of leveraged buyouts, creditors can argue a deal loaded up a company with too much debt, leaving it undercapitalized and unable to meet future obligations.

The filing will seek to slow or nullify an advancing plan for Tribune to exit from bankruptcy protection with J.P. Morgan, Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch and other banks owning nearly all of Tribune in return for the banks forgiving about $8 billion in debt.

Bondholders would likely receive only a sliver of new equity under the deal. The bondholders seeking to investigate Mr. Zell’s buyout of Tribune represent more than 18% of the company’s bond debt, according to the court filing. The bondholder’s requested investigation centers around some $1.26 billion in notes issued between 1992 and 1997.

[Click to continue reading Tribune Bondholders Fault Zell Takeover – WSJ.com]

[non-WSJ subscribers use this link]

why did Sam Zell even buy the Trib if not to strip it of assets and make money on the deal? He reminds me of a caricature of an 19th century robber baron, a comical villain in a graphic novel. Except of course, there are real lives effected by Zell’s greed.

and since I had to look up Fraudulent Conveyance, here is the Wikipedia entry:

In the United States, fraudulent conveyances or transfers are governed by two sets of laws that are generally consistent. The first is the Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act (“UFTA”) that has been adopted by all but a handful of the states.The second is found in the federal Bankruptcy Code.

There are two kinds of fraudulent transfer. The archetypal example is the intentional fraudulent transfer. This is a transfer of property made by a debtor with intent to defraud, hinder, or delay his or her creditors. The second is a constructive fraudulent transfer. Generally, this occurs when a debtor transfers property without receiving “reasonably equivalent value” in exchange for the transfer if the debtor is insolvent at the time of the transfer or becomes insolvent or is left with unreasonably small capital to continue in business as a result of the transfer. Unlike the intentional fraudulent transfer, no intention to defraud is necessary.

The Bankruptcy Code authorizes a bankruptcy trustee to recover the property transferred fraudulently for the benefit of all of the creditors of the debtor if the transfer took place within the relevant time frame. The transfer may also be recovered by a bankruptcy trustee under the UFTA too, if the state in which the transfer took place has adopted it and the transfer took place within its relevant time period. Creditors may also pursue remedies under the UFTA without the necessity of a bankruptcy.

Because this second type of transfer does not necessarily involve any actual wrongdoing, it is a common trap into which honest, but unwary debtors fall when filing a bankruptcy petition without an attorney. Particularly devastating and not uncommon is the situation in which an adult child takes title to the parents’ home as a self-help probate measure (in order to avoid any confusion about who owns the home when the parents die and to avoid losing the home to a perceived threat from the state). Later, when the parents file a bankruptcy petition without recognizing the problem, they are unable to exempt the home from administration by the trustee. Unless they are able to pay the trustee an amount equal to the greater of the equity in the home or the sum of their debts (either directly to the Chapter 7 trustee or in payments to a Chapter 13 trustee,) the trustee will sell their home to pay the creditors. Ironically, in many cases, the parents would have been able to exempt the home and carry it safely through a bankruptcy if they had retained title or had recovered title before filing.

Even good faith purchasers of property who are the recipients of fraudulent transfers are only partially protected by the law in the U.S. Under the Bankruptcy Code, they get to keep the transfer to the extent of the value they gave for it, which means that they may lose much of the benefit of their bargain even though they have no knowledge that the transfer to them is fraudulent.

Often fraudulent transfers occur in connection with leveraged buyouts (LBOs), where the management/owners of a failing corporation will cause the corporation to borrow on its assets and use the loan proceeds to purchase the management/owner’s stock at highly inflated prices. The creditors of the corporation will then often have little or no unencumbered assets left upon which to collect their debts. LBOs can be either intentional or constructive fraudulent transfers, or both, depending on how obviously the corporation is financially impaired when the transaction is completed.

Although not all LBOs are fraudulent transfers, a red flag is raised when, after an LBO, the company then cannot pay its creditors

[Click to continue reading Fraudulent conveyance – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

The Zell deal seems1 to fit that definition, does it not?

At the time of the buyout, Tribune was valued at $8.2 billion, excluding debt. Including Tribune’s existing borrowings, the deal placed more than $12 billion of debt on the company, or about 10 times its annual cash flow.

“The LBO — and the unsustainable debt burden it imposed on a business already in a secular decline — undoubtedly caused the debtor’s demise,” the filing said. “The remedying of the LBO will most certainly dictate the economic outcome of these Chapter 11 cases

  1. and yes, I am not a lawyer, and not even particularly well versed in bankruptcy proceedings, so of course this is only speculation []

Reading Around on August 14th

Some additional reading August 14th from 12:05 to 12:45:

William Blake:


  • Think You Can Rip Someone’s Image From the Internet and Use it For Free? Think Again, You Just May End Up Sued and Lose | Thomas Hawk Digital Connection – “It was interesting to hear yesterday from photographer Christopher Boffoli who has done a lot of freelance work lately for the West Seattle Blog. Boffoli wrote me and told me about a situation where a Seattle based Realtor, Laura Miller with Catalyst Commercial Partners, used an unauthorized photo of his for a real estate listing (photo above) of hers and ended up having to pay him a $1,000 small claims court judgment over it.

    I’ll let Boffoli tell part of the story”

  • Change of Subject: Getting aboard a health plan — it’s time to throw a lifeline to 60 million Americans – “they’re fine with the idea of providing coverage to everyone. But only if it costs them nothing and leaves them with all the advantages, priorities and prerogatives they currently enjoy. In other words, the old “I’d haul you up, but you might swamp my rowboat” argument.

    Others tell me they view access to quality health care as something they’ve earned — either by working hard or being related to someone who works hard. And if others want it, let them earn it too — the old, “Go build your own rowboat, you slacker!” argument.

    Still others say that those without coverage can always fall back on the patchwork of public hospitals, charity and Medicaid — the old “You don’t need a rowboat. Driftwood will do” argument.

    Obviously, though, too many swimmers are drowning:”

  • Krugman- Republican Death Trip – NYTimes.com
  • – “President Obama is now facing the same kind of opposition that President Bill Clinton had to deal with: an enraged right that denies the legitimacy of his presidency, that eagerly seizes on every wild rumor manufactured by the right-wing media complex.”
  • Court extends Tribune Co. control of Chapter 11 case — chicagotribune.com – “A bankruptcy judge said Tribune Co. can keep control of its Chapter 11 case for three-and-a-half more months as it looks to sell off some assets, including the Chicago Cubs, in its bid to exit bankruptcy protection.

    Judge Kevin J. Carey of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., on Monday gave the publisher of the Chicago Tribune an extension to Nov. 30 to file its reorganization plan to emerge from bankruptcy and to repay creditors. He also set a March 15, 2010, deadline for the media giant to win creditor support for a plan.”

  • delicious blog » Sharing Made Easier: Email and Tweet Your Bookmarks – “If you use Twitter and want to send bookmarks to your Twitter feed, associate a Twitter account (only a single Twitter account can be associated at one time) by logging into Twitter under the Twitter panel. You have the option to send all your saved bookmarks to Twitter by selecting the “Tweet all bookmarks unless private” checkbox when you add the Twitter account. If you’ve selected this option, your Twitter account will appear by default in the Send field.”
  • Juan_Gris
  • Juan Gris

Reading Around on March 20th through March 22nd

A few interesting links collected March 20th through March 22nd:

  • Spring Cleaning Hits Chicago | Today’s Photos: Today’s best Chicago photos, handpicked by our editors. in Chicago – Cleaning Cloud Gate photo by swanksalot
  • Chicago Tribune Twitterizes masthead | Geek Gestalt – CNET NewsHe added that, “If you’re a reporter or an editor, Twitter is a great way to get in touch with your audience in real time, and if you do it right, if you follow the right people in your sphere of knowledge, you will get a lot out of it.” And, in an experiment to show the many Twitter users among the paper’s audience that the Tribune gets the microblogging service, and to make it easy to get in touch with the top editors and executives, the publication decided to publish, for one day only, the Twitter-friendly masthead. “We were talking at dinner,” Adee said, “and maybe we had too many glasses of wine…but we were just all talking, and we were like, ‘Hey, let’s do it.’ Tomorrow, it’s back to normal, but you never know when it will spring up again.”
  • [1960 Playboy Magazine advertising image via]

  • The Venereal Disease Channel Imaginatizes Greatastically « Whatever – “Apparently one of the motivating factors to change the name from “scifi” to a phase-changing-vowel-filled homonym was to have a name that was trademarkable and extensible, and it seems no one else in the world actually uses the word “syfy” for anything. Well, except Poland, where the word is used to identify crusty, scabby sexually transmitted diseases, and no, this is not a joke. No one there is going to use the word to associate with their product, any more than someone here might try to market, say, Chlamydia™ brand adhesive bandages.

    Note to SciFi Channel: when your new brand identity means “venereal disease” in any language, it’s the sort of thing that — excuse the term — gets around.”