MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Yes, the rumors have been rampant for a few weeks that the infamous Koch brothers (top ranking billionaires) will buy what is left of the Chicago Tribune newspaper empire from a board appointed by the Tribune Company creditors.
The creditors apparently want to sell the unprofitable newspapers but keep the lucrative television stations, radio stations, real estate and other profitable and potentially profitable divisions of the Tribune Company.
Please remember that what is at stake here is not just the flagship Chicago Tribune, but also the Los Angeles Times, the Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant, the Orlando Sentinel and other papers including the emerging Spanish edition market of print publications.
Harold Meyerson writes in the Washington Post a virtual R.I.P. to the Los Angeles Times, in which he laments:
The Koch boys, whose oil-and-gas-based fortune places them just behind Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison as the wealthiest Americans, have been among the chief donors to the tea party wing of the Republican Party. Their political funding vehicle, Americans for Prosperity, ranked with casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson among the largest funders of right-wing causes and candidates in 2012. Their purchase offer wonâ€™t be buttressed by a record of involvement in or commitment to journalism on their part. But it will come complete with a commitment to journalism as a branch of right-wing ideologyâ€¦.
The bankersâ€™ men on the Tribune board likely view the sale of the papers as a financial transaction, pure and simple. But Times readers (and the Koch brothers themselves) would view a sale to the Kochs as a political transaction first and foremost, turning L.A.â€™s metropolitan daily into a right-wing mouthpiece whose commitment to empirical journalism would be unproven at best. A newspaper isnâ€™t just a business; itâ€™s also a civic trust. The money men who have been plunked down on the Tribune board should remember that as they sell off the civic chronicles of some of Americaâ€™s great cities.
Indeed, the sale isn't final. In fact, negotiations are in the hush-hush/leak-leak stage. But creditors are (the Chicago Tribune Company went bankrupt under the eccentric and bullying ownership of Chicago real estate pirate mogul Sam Zell) in want of one thing only: payback on their investment at the maximum amount per dollar lost in bankruptcy.
The odds are pretty good that the Tribune newspapers will be sold to the likes of the Koch brothers because they can pay top dollar and it will be like buying a lottery ticket as far as the dent it will put in their assets.
Furthermore, like the News World Media Development (a Unification Church affiliate) corporation-owned Washington Times and the Murdoch-owned New York Post, the Kochs can afford to run the papers at a loss in order to achieve their political goals through public influence.
When Rev. Moon directly owned the Washington Times (until 2010), it is rumored that he lost more than $2 billion establishing the Times as a paper with a small circulation, but a big influence in DC â€“ and therefore on the national debate about issues. Whether or not the Washington Post moved to the right on certain issues due to the pressure from the Washington Times or just internal neo-liberal, neo-con editorial and news bias is a difficult question to ascertain.
But there will be no question that with at least four major US papers potentially under the control of the Kochs, the national discourse will move even further to the right. And the Kochs can absorb the further financial losses incurred by increased cancelled subscriptions and the likely continued hemorrhaging of advertising dollars. Think of it as their "Americans for Prosperity" of the Fourth Estate.
Any notion, such as in this rather naĂŻve column in Media Matters that begins with this paragraph:
New reports that the politically conservative Koch brothers are interested in buying the Tribune Company's eight regional newspapers -- which include the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune -- are sparking concerns from newspaper staff members that attempts to influence the editorial process in favor of their far-right political views may follow.
Excuse us, but is there even a scintilla, an atomic particle of doubt "that attempts to influence the editorial process in favor of their far-right political views may follow"?
Should the sale of the Tribune newspapers go through, with the Kochs the new owners, just get ready for a wave of plutocratic Pravdas sweeping across America.
The Koch brothers don't care about spending billions of dollars to prop up the Tribune papers, because they plan on reaping billions more in political profit as a result of influencing legislation and rollbacks on regulation by framing public discourse.
Just look what Americans for Prosperity and the recently shaken-up FreedomWorks accomplished: They put the House of Representatives under the control of a radical posse of Tea Party zealots in 2010, who block any legislation that can move the United States forward. Uh, that's about as big a return on investment as one can get â€“ and the Kochs got it.
Now will you be having your coffee black or with crĂ¨me while reading the billionaire broadside that is soon coming your way?