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.

For liberals, the purchase is a fairly horrifying prospect, one that has Ken Doctor of the Nieman Journalism Lab looking longingly toward media titan Rupert Murdoch, who is also in the running.

"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.  

  • Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.

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Maerzie
Maerzie

The Koch brothers don't want smaller government! They want to BE the government, without ever getting elected. Course, they could BUY that too, as they currently buy their brainless, unprincipled puppets! Owning newspapers would let them circulate all their own propaganda, instead of paying for it, piece-meal! No doubt, cheaper in the long run. I guess lots more people will have to drop subscriptions, like they don't bother to watch FAUX Fairy Tales! Everything they do with their inherited billions is for selfishness! Absolutely ZERO philanthropy! Such sick losers! I found another paper company to buy my paper towels and toilet paper from, too. We should ALL do that!

Maerzie
Maerzie

The things the Koch's "call" philanthropy are even to their own selfish benefit. Are they atheists? There's no sign of a god or any hereafter in any of their selfish pursuits. I guess they're planning to take it WITH them. They ARE "that" age, so not much longer for this world!

gkmoynihan
gkmoynihan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdofUBR3SJc

I follow you.

gkmoynihan
gkmoynihan

Is Garance Franke-Ruta aware that the Wall Street Journal has the largest weekly and sunday circulations in the US? Last I checked editorially it's far from liberal.

Now obviously quality matters and these Tribune papers have long done shoddy and ideologically tainted work which is why their collective value is around 1/10th that of the Wall Street Journal's by itself.

And if you need an example of shoddy and ideologically tainted work one doesn't need to look any farther than this LA Times edict to not cover then Candidate John Edward's extramarital affair despite eagerly running similar articles on McCain with far less evidence.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/kausfiles/2008/07/does_obama_want_edwards_gone.single.html

"From: "Pierce, Tony"

Date:July 24, 2008 10:54:41 AM PDT

To: [XXX]

Subject: john edwards

Hey bloggers,

There has been a little buzz surrounding John Edwards and his alleged affair. Because the only source has been the National Enquirer we have decided not to cover the rumors or salacious speculations. So I am asking you all not to blog about this topic until further notified.

If you have any questions or are ever in need of story ideas that would best fit your blog, please don't hesitate to ask

Keep rockin,

Tony"

In short, unless the Koch Brothers endeavor to follow this "paper" model there is little they could do to make these rags less viable.

Fartinthewind
Fartinthewind

Love 'em or hate 'em the Koch brothers are not stupid. What's interesting here is that they are highly diversified. They could lose perhaps billions on the papers and still make obscene profits which should raise concerns. But I don't see anything that could or should be able to stop them from doing this.

Wis_taxpayer
Wis_taxpayer

Of course you don't see anything that could stop them from doing this.... because the right has tried to get rid of the antitrust laws in this country. They have also tried to limit the power of the Governments and courts to enforce our existing antitrust laws. Remember AT&T?


Antitrust Law:From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia,

United States antitrust law is a collection of federal and state government laws, which regulates the conduct and organization of business corporations, generally to promote fair competition for the benefit of consumers. The main statutes are the Sherman Act 1890, the Clayton Act 1914 and the Federal Trade Commission Act 1914.

These Acts, first, restrict the formation of cartels and prohibit other collusive practices regarded as being in restraint of trade.

Second, they restrict the mergers and acquisitions of organizations which could substantially lessen competition.

Third, they prohibit the creation of a monopoly and the abuse of monopoly power.

farming
farming

Wow - Wis_tax you just described the teacher union.

196ski
196ski

Wis_taxpayer, it is completely unfair to put the lack of antitrust enforcement on republicans. Both parties have been bought and sold many times over. It is a price we pay for career politicians.

We need an FTC that enforces the laws, when was the last time you remember them denying a merger? Competition is good for everyone.

farming, sadly, true.

Fartinthewind
Fartinthewind

I have to laugh when I get called our as a rightie. Maybe the righties out here can take note of this the next time you want to call me a leftie.

And wasn't it Teddy R who created anti-trust legislation? Wasn't he a republican?

While I would agree with ski that both parties have sold out in ways that have weakened anti-trust legislation, there is not a true moral equivalency between the actions of the parties. It's kinda like saying both Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein were mass murderers.

FTR: If there is anyone out there who is opposed to this acquisition who wants to argue that the Koch brothers diversification into the media is an anti-trust issue, please explain how that is so. I know there laws regulating the owning of media outlets, but I just don't see how they apply in this case.

Am I troubled by a big business buying up media outlets to control public discourse? Yes. But troubled doesn't make it unethical or illegal.

gkmoynihan
gkmoynihan

How on earth does the Koch Brothers buying a newspaper company in any way lessen competition?

Ariel12
Ariel12

The only ones who seem to be trying to get rid of the antitrust laws in this country are the leftists who are hell bent on holding a monopoly on the media.

Wis_taxpayer
Wis_taxpayer

I wonder how the right would react if the headline read George Soros is buying the Tribune?

196ski
196ski

Fair question. I personally wouldn't care, in this day you can't depend on any one source of media for news. Each has bias and nothing will ever stop that. Consider multiple sources, keep an open mind and make up your own mind. The problem is the intellectually lazy that rely on single sources, generally ones that support their preconceived notions.

Fartinthewind
Fartinthewind

The notion news media should be fair and unbiased has become a something of quaint anachronism.

Media bias is really the result of market segmentation. It's unfortunate that this segmentation leaves most of the media preaching to the choir, but that's the way it is.

Cornelius Gotchberg
Cornelius Gotchberg

@Wis_taxpayer;

I'll go out on a limb here and opine that it might not be with the same squealingly slobbering Pavlovian drool that would be shown by Lefty.

Am I close?

The Gotch

gobi
gobi

Gotch, no one listens to you. No , you are not close.

gkmoynihan
gkmoynihan

The right wouldn't care. These papers wouldn't change editorially one single bit if they were purchased by Soros.

B-Man
B-Man

Biggest Polluters? Barrett and the Bad River Band are buying the Tribune?

gobi
gobi

Good one B-man !! You are so insightful- keep up the good work !!

toobad
toobad

Why would anyone buy a newpaper? Alternative media has completely take over.

Honestly
Honestly

Propaganda and hate

toobad
toobad

You're referring to NBC

spooky tooth
spooky tooth

General electric owns NBC, only a Fox believer could post something this far off and that toosad.

gkmoynihan
gkmoynihan

Yes spooky, you are one smart progressive....

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comcast_NBC_merger

bookman21
bookman21

We already have enough right wing extremists perverting journalism with propaganda.

Honestly
Honestly

Really have you watched Fox News. Motto should be "If we don't know we will make it up". Or we make this $";( up anyway

ktruth
ktruth

Best news I heard in a long time. Be nice to get the truth and some real reporters. Can't believe majority of trash put out by the left wing media. Crying, whining, and bashing by the left gets old fast.

everclear
everclear

ktruth, ya want news I got news for ya: Obama was born in Kenya, globlal warming is being promoted to sell ice cream, the keystone pipeline will bring gas down to 19 cents a gallon, the world is only 6000 years old, dispite the fact the first beer was produced 18,000 years ago in Africia, if we stop taxing the rich, we will all do very well, there now ktruth don't you feel better, and for only $5 per day I will send you a daily news up date to make you feel better. Donald Trump and michele Backmann in 2016!!!!!

gkmoynihan
gkmoynihan

And how does your business plan differ from the CapTimes'?