Having survived bankruptcy, the Tribune Company is now looking to sell its 12 newspapers, which include such marquee names as The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, and The Baltimore Sun. While Rupert Murdoch and Warren Buffett have been cited as potential buyers, neither has stirred as much speculation as outspoken conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
According to The New York Times, in 2010 the Koch brothers held a seminar in Colorado that was aimed at developing a plan to create a grassroots movement to expand conservative concepts. The plan consisted of three methods to gain public support for conservative ideals — with the third method being managing the media to garner more favorable coverage for their message.
The Times cites an anonymous attendee of the seminar, who said the Koch brothers are mostly concerned with the media’s failure to fairly articulate conservative views. “It was never ‘How do we destroy the other side?’ It was ‘How do we make sure our voice is being heard?'” the source said.
The Tribune Company is expected to begin reviewing potential buyers in May, and only then will it be determined if the Koch brothers are serious candidates. The eight papers they aim to purchase could cost a mere $623 million — pocket change for Koch Industries, which brings in billions of dollars each year.
While print media is no longer a surefire business investment, outlets like The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune — two of the largest circulating newspapers in the country — would certainly give the Koch brothers the soapbox they have been looking for to further their political agenda.
Two Tribune Company journalists anonymously voiced their concern to JimRomanesko.com for the future of the publications if the Koch brothers were to take over. “Murdoch, for all his flaws, is a newspaper man. The Kochs are not,” said a Chicago Tribune journalist. “I have no faith in their belief in the importance of a free and robust watchdog press,” he added. “Frankly, such a press seems antithetical to their goals and harmful to their influence in the political process.”
A journalist from another Tribune Company newspaper concurred, saying, “The news is a bit terrifying given the idea that the Koch brothers pitched ‘media’ as the third prong of a strategy to push their political and social ideals onto a wider audience.”
David Sirota echoes these journalists’ concerns in Slate, writing that this “isn’t really a left-versus-right, Republican-versus-Democrat issue. It is more an issue of objectivity and propaganda.”
Tellingly, Less Government president Seton Motley told The New York Times, “A running joke among conservatives as we watched the GOP establishment spend $500 million on ineffectual TV ads is ‘Why don’t you just buy NBC?’ It’s good the Kochs are talking about fighting fire with a little fire.”
For their part, the Koch brothers aren’t revealing their plans quite yet. Melissa Cohlmia, a spokeswoman for Koch Companies Public Sector said, “As an entrepreneurial company with 60,000 employees around the world, we are constantly exploring profitable opportunities in many industries and sectors. So it is natural that our name would come up in connection with this rumor.” Cohlmia continued, “We respect the independence of the journalistic institutions referenced in the news stories, but it is our longstanding policy not to comment on deals or rumors of deals we may or may not be exploring.”
Whether the Koch brothers will pursue the purchase remains to be seen, but it’s highly unlikely that the savvy Kochs would ignore the obvious opportunity to take control of what they imagine to be the “liberal media.”
H/T: The New York Times
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