A coalition of media advocates, labor unions, community groups, and citizens concerned about the 'rightwing' takeover of some of the nation's largest newspapers by the powerful Koch brothers are vowing to fight the rumored attempt of the billionaires' purchase of the Tribune media company which owns the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, and others.
"We don't need more corporate control of our media and our politics," says media reform group Free Press, which counts itself among the coalition that includes Working Families, Common Cause, the Courage Campaign, and others. "We need journalism that fights corruption — not hack writing that covers it up."
"We need media owners who will encourage their reporters to expose corporate and government wrongdoing."
"Stopping the Koch brothers’ bid for the Tribune Company is about supporting the kind of journalism that serves communities and acts as a watchdog against the wealthy and powerful," Free Press said. "We need journalism that serves communities, not extremist agendas. We need media owners who will encourage their reporters to expose corporate and government wrongdoing. Charles and David Koch are more interested in serving their own interests than in providing the news and reporting that people need."
On Wednesday in Chicago, protesters gathered outside the headquarters of the Chicago Tribune to voice their opposition to the paper's possible sale to the Kochs, calling on key powers within the Tribune company to block it.
As the Chicago Sun-Times reports:
Several local community organizations calling themselves Stand Up Chicago, marched with picket signs and chanted slogans such as: “Cut the lies. End the greed. Give us the news we need,” and “Koch, Koch, you’re the worst. Time to put the people first.”
With their demands to meet with Tribune Board Chairman Bruce Karsh rebuffed, they eventually settled for presenting an oversized letter outlining their concerned to the building security chief, who promised to get it to Tribune Co. officials.
“We’re here protesting the potential sale of the Tribune and the company which includes the L.A. Times, Baltimore Sun and the second largest Spanish language newspaper, Hoy, to the Koch Brothers who have been pushing their right-wing, extremist agenda across this nation,” said Deivid Rojas, 24, of the group, Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago.
And the Chicago Tribune itself reported:
Organizers claim the Koch brothers have a "right wing agenda" that would negatively affect Chicago and its working class community, including fights against raising the minimum wage, unemployment benefits and consumer protections.
"I think it's time that we stand up. We have to protect our rights for good and unbiased journalism," rally leader Shani Smith said.
Tribune Co. said in February that it hired two investment banks to explore options for the company's newspapers, which also include the Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun. It said no decisions have been made about whether to sell any properties.
A Tribune spokesman declined to comment on the protests.
In a media alert, the journalism watchdog Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting explains how the Koch brothers are not so much known for their fabulous wealth—though the brothers rank sixth and seventh on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index—but rather how they spend the money from their oil and gas empire, which is by
bankrolling right-wing political causes like the Tea Party movement, and funneling millions of dollars to front groups and politicians devoted to their anti-regulatory, anti-labor and pro-corporate ideology. The Kochs have spent millions propping up climate-change deniers, and have been instrumental in funding ALEC, the powerful business lobby that pushes corporate-friendly policies at the state level.
Recent reports indicate that many employees at the LA Times have said they would leave the paper if it was purchased by the Kochs, but FAIR notes how this would likely only be "music to [the Koch brothers'] cost-cutting ears."
A statement put out by the coalition opposing the sale explains why wealthy individuals with a proven track record of undermining the public interest should not be allowed to hold such huge stakes in media companies that have an obligation to serve the communities in which they operate:
Millions of Americans rely on the news outlets currently operated by the Tribune Company to provide them with accurate, unbiased information about pressing issues in their communities and around the world. Ownership by two of the most influential and radical right wing ideologues in the country will skew trusted news sources to further their interests and debase our democracy.
Any news outlet owned by such intensely partisan activists could not be trusted to provide an honest account of a wide variety of issues that are of vital importance to the public. The Koch brothers have worked for years to benefit their bottom line at the expense of the everyday Americans. They have donated millions to organizations and politicians that deny climate change[i], attack campaign-spending limits[ii], dismantle worker's rights[iii], promote discriminatory voter ID laws[iv], restrict access to health care[v], and increase income inequality[vi]. In doing so, the Koch brothers have shown a willingness to repeatedly and egregiously mislead the public. Allowing them control of important, respected newspapers to further their agenda will make an honest public discourse on these, and many other important issues, impossible.
We already know what happens to news coverage when the ideology of an owner is placed over informing the public. This sale would create another Rupert Murdoch, and make papers like the LA Times and Chicago Tribune look more like Fox News and the New York Post.
And protesters in Los Angeles hope to follow their allies in Chicago by holding a rally outside the LA Times next week.