By Dave Stancliff/for The Times-StandardSince the Tribune Company has emerged from bankruptcy it’s entertaining the idea of selling its newspapers. It’s still talk, but scary talk.
The reported value of the newspaper unit is $623 million. Not much when you consider they’re talking about the LA Times, The Chicago-Sun Times, The Baltimore Sun, and five regional newspapers.
Actually, we’re talking about a fire sale here. The political influence alone is worth $623 million. It’s true there are some strings attached, like significant debt, but to someone with money to burn - say the Koch brothers - it’s a tiny splash in their vast money pool.
Yes, I said the Koch brothers. David and Charles are reportedly interested in adding the still respected publications the Tribune Company may put up for auction. The Koch brothers, as in Koch Industries, have very deep pockets and a burning desire to convert America into a conservative Gulag.
You can imagine what’ll happen right off; there will be an ideological stand-off between the newsrooms and the Koch brothers. Talk about culture clash. Betting boards in Las Vegas will take odds on who quits first at which newspaper.
It also doesn’t take a genius to know they wouldn’t expect to make money on the purchase for a long time. If ever. So what’s the attraction? Sam Zell lost $8.2 billion when he bought the Tribune newspapers and went bust during the recession. Hardly a golden goose deal.
Another alarm bell; the Koch brothers have a website - Kochfacts.com - to take on press coverage they don’t like. They’re like honey badgers, as David Sassoon, the publisher of Inside Climate News, found out when he won a Pulitzer Prize a few years ago for publishing articles about the Keystone XL pipeline that made the brothers look bad.
They went after his non-profit site after unsuccessfully pressuring Reuters to stop distributing the articles, despite not identifying any factual mistakes in the reporting. They even took out nasty ads about Sassoon on Google and FaceBook.
Guess who else is interesting in buying the newspapers? None other than the infamous News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdock! Sure it would be a tough road for him to hoe, as he already has Fox TV, but don’t leave it past his army of lawyers to obtain a waiver and let him bid upon the newspapers.
The prospective wealthy buyer list doesn’t end there, however. Doug Manchester, the new owner of the San-Diego Union Tribune and Aaron Kushner, the new owner of the Orange County Register, have expressed interest in buying the newspapers.
Eli Broad, liberal billionaire LA developer, threw his hat in the ring, hinting he may bid on the newspapers should they come up for sale. Even Warren Buffet, who already has newspapers in his portfolio, said he was intrigued by the sale.
Frankly, if the Koch brothers decide to buy the newspapers they have the best chance of success. That’s the scary part I mentioned earlier. They would have no trouble forking over a billion for the whole package - something the Tribune Company wants to happen.
The Tribune will file the formal documents this month. I don’t think its owners are too concerned about maintaining journalistic standard at this point. They just want to sever ties and move on. I’d be shocked if the bean counters at the Tribune Company wanted someone with more journalistic chops than David and Charles have to offer. After all, money talks and everything else walks, right?
Time will tell if these conservative tycoons get their chance to further brainwash people by controlling mainstream media. Lord knows they feel persecuted, and have whined in past interviews about poor treatment from the liberal press.
Will anyone miss whatever journalistic integrity that remains with these once-proud newspapers? Or, will they join others that have slipped a few notches in reality after selling out to rich guys with personal agendas who publish political ideologies instead of unbiased news?
I suppose I don’t have to say just how hard the newspaper industry is struggling to make a profit today. The days of being profit centers and offering unbiased news have gone to the wayside, victims of competing advertising dollars, the economy, and wealthy buyers with agendas.
As It Stands, I’m thankful for newspapers like The Times-Standard which allows me to share my opinions with you without fear of being censored or suppressed.
Websites that have picked this column up:
silobreaker – News & Opinions
Crude – UK site