Pigging out with Koch
In case you haven't heard the news, the Chicago Tribune reported that headline the day that Truman won the election in 1948. Their track record has been about as accurate ever since that date. The great and iconic columnist Mike Royko went to work for them in 1984 only after Rupert Murdoch bought the Chicago Sun-Times. Some of Royko's choicest criticisms against Murdoch were that "[n]o self-respecting fish would want to be wrapped in a Murdoch paper," and that "[h]is goal is not quality journalism. His goal is vast power for Rupert Murdoch, political power." It's amazing how something said 30 years ago is still relevant today. Current Tribune ownership couldn't possibly be more right-wing than Murdoch, so why is Chicago still in the hands of the Democrats? Could it be that Murdoch's and Sam Zell's message just sucks? That may not be a scholarly treatise, but you can bet that it's pretty accurate. Philadelphia has recently witnessed the demise of a formerly great newspaper, The Philadelphia Inquirer, bought by Moses Annenberg in 1930 to take advantage of his racing sheet empire, but elevated by his son, Walter, and again by the Knight organization over the years. McClatchy bought it from the Knights and then sold it to a group of conservative businessmen who, with their own Charles Foster Kane egos, thought it would be fun to own a newspaper. (P.S. They are in receivership.)
So, let's say that you had a few billion dollars just lying around and your candidates nationally had just been whupped in the 2012 elections after you and your allies had spent a gazillion dollars trying to get them elected. What would you do? Well, it might be fun to own a media empire, especially at fire sale rates; after all, the price mentioned is approximately 15 percent of what Sam Zell originally paid for it. For Charles and David Koch, the expense is mere pocket change. They wouldn't even miss it if the enterprise failed, and they would make more money by giving it to Mitt Romney to liquidate. Business people look at bottom lines. Forgetting what it costs to buy, the day-to-day costs of running that media empire would be dear. It would take years to make things profitable, if that's even possible. They are better off just buying out all the advertising space in all the enterprises and spreading their message that way. No muss, no fuss, plenty of coverage.
Many people here in central Florida are very concerned about this, because the Tribune Corp owns the Orlando Sentinel, the region's only print daily, and they fear that a Koch takeover could spell doom and gloom in the region and cancel any hope of objective journalism in central Florida, yet the conservative element is hoping and praying that the Kocks will buy. Upon hearing the news that they might, blogger Tom Tillison posted on his Facebook page, "Be still my beating heart!" Yet West Orlando News Online publisher Keith Longmore, a true progressive, thinks that this could be the best thing to happen for his publication.
Florida Watch Action head Amy Ritter is quite upset about the possibility of a Koch takeover and organized a protest Thursday, May 15, at the offices of the Orlando Sentinel. Approximately 30 sign-waving protesters showed up. Prior to the organized protest, several members of the Sentinel staff came out to say hello but were completely silent on the issue. Similar demonstrations have taken place in cities like Allentown, Pa., Chicago and Los Angeles, where Tribune papers can be found. In Los Angeles, many staff members threatened to quit if the sale went through, but L.A. is a big media town with many more opportunities than Orlando. The latter is an extremely small media market, and you don't want to lose your job here. We did manage to espy Scott Maxwell, Mark Schlueb and Dave Damron, but they were nowhere to be found once the protest started. Other members of the press were there and recorded the event; however, no broadcast or cable stations were present. As far as I am aware, the only videos taken were by yours truly and Tom Tillison.
Left to right: Tom Tillison (BizPac Review), Billy Manes (Orlando Weekly) and Mark Schlueb and Scott Maxwell (Orlando Sentinel)
Addressing the crowd of about 50, Ritter voiced her concerns about the Sentinal turning into a propaganda machine for the Kochs' narrow tea-party-type views. Other speakers included Sue Casterline, a subscriber of over 30 years who will cancel her subscription if the Kochs buy the paper; Holly Fussell, a Rollins College student who uses the Sentinel for research and fears that her information will be tainted by Koch ownership; and Melissa, another concerned student who echoed Casterline's and Fussell's concerns. Ritter then ended the gathering with a chant and encouraged everyone to wave signs at rush-hour traffic.
Ritter states that there will be other actions, and that the community at large needs to know what's happening. The Sentinel can't comment on it, and the Koch brothers will not comment on a pending sale. A spokesman for the Kochs said that they invest in a lot of business opportunities, and that the Tribune Company is just one. That's all well and good, but I don't want to wake up one morning and find out that Dewey won in 2014. Do you?