Tribune Co. Chief Innovation Officer Inspires Creative Parody Memos

Please forgive your humble correspondent if he takes a bit of pride in being the first to recognize the inadvertent comedy genius of Lee Abrams, the Chief Innovation Officer of the Tribune Company. Since I first reported on the hilarious antics of Abrams back in March, more and more people, especially those in the newspaper business, have learned to appreciate the comedy material provided by his many memos consisting of a bizarre mixture of upbeat optimism and New Age psychobabble.

Although the author or authors are anonymous, one suspects the parody memos were written by a journalist in the Tribune organization upon whom the budget axe might soon fall. Here are some Lee Abrams parody memo excerpts from Poynter Forums:


Just came back from Hartford and a visit with the Courant. I was expecting some progress, but I was BLOWN away by what they had created. No "tweaks" here: they've stripped all the vowels out of stories. Saves lots of space. Before I joined Tribune, I had NO IDEA that there were different kinds of letters!! Bosnia and Serbia just have consonants, and they are WAY over the top cool, with ethnic cleaning and stuff … This is some serious re-invention in full motion that symbolizes an altitude we need in all our nespapers, TV stations, web sites and reel estate holdings. They know how to market a STAR, like Katie Courant – name the paper after 'em. Hits the READER like a 2×4.

...GREEN. Before I joined Tribune, I had NO idea that newspapers were made out of TREES … And the paper never told me because it "assumed" I knew. Hell, papers should have photos of lumberjacks cutting down big oaks, standing next to smiling squirrels and owls …Put it above the stories on the front: "This paper is brought to you by the White Oak — Illinois' State Tree”. People DON'T know that you have REAL trees exclusively being turned into pulp, because we ASSUME they do.

I have to interject here and state  that "memo" piece above was inspired by Lee's own memo that the Los Angeles Times needs to tell readers on every page that their periodical is made from recycled paper. You can read about that memo in my NewsBusters story where Abrams suggests that the LAT could also boost its circulation by repainting its news vans with a new color scheme. Now back to the parody memos:

...LEANER STAFF. The Courant has figured out how to keep putting out 300 pages per reporter while laying most of them off. They have a win-win: BIGGER FONT. They use a 24 pt Alburtus Extra Bold! Hits ‘em like a 2 x 4, especially the old geezers whoz eyes are going…. They understand that a death spiral is bad only if we ASSUME it is. Rock n Roll knows that. No one would still be listening to the Doors if Jim Morrison hadn’t snorted too much coke and died in a French bathtub. WE can be the Jimi Hendrix of media, DROWNED in our own puke, and DELIVER it in 21st century terms right onto our readers' shoes.

Now to parody memo #2:

The latest from Lee Abrams:
Day 73: The excitement I see with each new day is AMAZING … it physically hurts! And not just from massive layoffs and industry scorn. It's the SIGHTS and SOUNDS and SMELLS of a company pivoting toward greatness … greatness driven by way fewer people and a lot less news.

...ALT ROCK, ALT STORY FORM: In Allentown, these wild men are jamming on alternative story forms. Charticles? That is soooooo last Friday. Instead, their City Hall/Restaurant Critic/Press Foreman is writing all her government stories in Haiku. Check this out and tell me it doesn't ROCK like Emerson Lake and Palmer.

Budget Cuts Coming
Police and schools Affected
Run Children Run Fast

And the sports department? That guy is BLOWING THINGS UP.
He's telling all his stories through interpretive dance. It doesn't quite translate in print yet – no one said there wouldn't be kinks -- but it's KILLER on the web.

There is lot more Lee Abrams parody memos material at Poynter Online. Enjoy the laughs but I don't know which is funnier; the parodies or the original memos.

Journalistic Issues Lee Abrams

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