Speculation that Charles and David Koch are thinking of buying the iconic Tribune newspaper empire has media analysts buzzing.
The purchase would include the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant, The Boston Globe, the Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Estimated to be worth $623 million, the purchase would be a drop in the bucket for the fantastically wealthy brothers, each worth $34 billion, according to Forbes.
This New York Times story announcing the possible deal points out that the purchase of six influential newspapers — two of them in the battleground state of Florida — would fit neatly in the Koch brothers' three-pronged strategy to win smaller government and less regulation: fostering grass-roots activism, influencing politics and, you guessed it, media.
And, as the story points out, they have a problem with the media.
"Koch Industries has for years felt the mainstream media unfairly covered the company and its founding family because of its political beliefs. KochFacts.com, a Web site run by the company, disputes perceived press inaccuracies. The site, which asserts liberal bias in the news media, has published private e-mail conversations between company press officers and journalists, including the Politico reporter Kenneth P. Vogel and editors at The New Yorker in response to an article about the Kochs by Jane Mayer," the story says.
"Murdoch emerges as the relative friendly in this auction. In fact, you couldn’t ask for a better scenario for Rupert: serving as the white knight saving the Times and Tribune from the clutches of those far right-wingers!"
Doctor notes that the Koch brothers wouldn't be making their decision to buy based purely on business concerns.
"For the Kochs, clearly, the would-be newspaper acquisition isn’t a financial investment," he writes. "it’s a deeper opening into the body politic of major U.S. cities."
Garance Franke-Ruta of the Atlantic says, "Good luck with that."
In other words, Franke-Ruta doesn't think large urban newspapers can survive conservative reprogramming, and here's why:
"The main reason is that all major U.S. newspapers are based in cities. Cities in America are in the main run by Democrats, because they are populated, by and large, with Democrats, and very often also surrounded by Democratic suburbs. And because cities are run by Democrats, and populated by not only by Democrats but, very often, by liberal, minority, and immigrant Democrats, they tend to have laws on the books that at least formally signal a desire to serve the interests of these voting groups — their residents, let's call them."
Matthew Yglesias of Slate has a different take. He thinks the Koch brothers can pull it off. After all, while newsrooms beset with dwindling resources are slashing staff, an infusion of cash might be just the thing:
"After all, the big problem with right-leaning media in America isn't that it doesn't exist. It's that it's terrible. There is a large audience out there that's so frustrated with the vile MSM (mainstream media) that it's happy to lap up cheaply produced content from Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, and you can make lots of money serving that kind of thing up."
Lee Fang, in The Nation, lists four reasons why it's a bad idea, possibly the most compelling of which is, who would cover the Koch brothers, whose vast political influence has made them newsmakers in their own right? Fang also wonders if the purchase by one of the nation's leading polluters would squelch the Tribune Company newspapers award-winning environmental reporting.
Finally, here's a video conversation about the Kochs' probable bid for the papers with some of the writers above and more on HuffPost.