Pranks: Thanks but no thanks

Tribune Co., Gawker play April Fools gags

April fool!

The Web was awash in fake press releases on April 1, and not all of them were that funny.

A jokey statement from Tribune Co., for example, announced a name change to ZellCoMedia Inc. The release described owner Sam Zell as someone “who made a fortune in real estate before deciding he’d like to dabble in an industry completely unfamiliar to him.”

In fact, Zell’s layoffs and pay cuts at newspapers like Newsday and the L.A. Times haven’t exactly been raising smiles from many, including longtime Newsday film critics Gene Seymour and Jan Stuart, who exited with buyouts.

In other April 1 pranks, Manhattan gossip blog Gawker claimed to have sold its sister site, Jezebel, to Conde Nast (gotcha!) on the same day tech site Valleywag (another Gawker Media property) announced it would be slashing its writers’ per-pageview bonus.

Gawker Media instituted the per-pageview bonus policy companywide when founder-CEO Nick Denton decided the old per-post bonus encouraged writers to post boring fluff. Denton informed his writers in an email that the individual sites could unilaterally adjust the bonus amount on a quarterly basis, and since April 1 had rolled around, Valleywag writers had their contracts renegotiated for them.

At least those doing the cost-cutting can laugh about it with each other.

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