Unions Fight Takeover of American Newspapers by Rich, Right-Wing Koch Brothers

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By Glynn Wilson

Some scholars on American democracy have referred to the press as the Fourth Estate, a powerful institution with as much or more influence on public affairs and public opinion as the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government, that is in cases when they are free of government and corporate control. While the founders set up the U.S. government with three branches of government to “check and balance” each other, they also established the First Amendment press freedom as an essential check on all three.

There have been threats to this system from the beginning in the late 1700s, but some fear that a new threat is emerging and trying to seize control of this institution at a critical time in history.


David and Charles Koch

The conservative Koch brothers are trying to buy up newspapers in Los Angeles, Chicago and Baltimore, and probably have their sites set on taking over the press in other places as well to push their radical, anti-government, anti-tax views.

The concern is now so great, even among labor unions — even though historically newspapers have been no friend of organized labor in the U.S. — that a special panel discussion has been setup at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. and will be held on Wednesday, June 26, starting at 9 a.m. EDT. The subject? “Should the Koch Brothers Own The Tribune Newspapers?”

The Newspaper Guild-CWA is sponsoring the panel and it will be live-streamed on the AFL-CIO website at www.aflcio.org/Koch-Brothers.

As the AFL-CIO says in the announcement on its Website, David and Charles Koch have expressed interest in buying the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun and other leading newspapers owned by the Tribune Co.

The Koch brothers also have financed conservative and libertarian causes and founded an advocacy group called Americans for Prosperity, whose stated goals are to limit government, cut taxes and eliminate regulations. They also hate unions and fight the collective bargaining rights of American workers, as they demonstrated in Wisconsin and other states over the past few years by supporting anti-labor Republicans for political office.

“It is hard to imagine how the Tribune newspapers would continue to provide quality, independent journalism to the communities they serve if they were under the control of the Koch brothers,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement. “The Kochs’ political strategy includes changing the way the media covers conservative causes. We need newspapers that are dedicated to providing objective and high-quality reporting, not another Fox-news style propaganda machine.”

On the panel for the discussion will be Ryan Grim, The Huffington Post Washington bureau chief; John Nichols, a Washington correspondent at The Nation; Christopher Assaf, video editor at The Baltimore Sun; and Lena Williams, retired senior writer of The New York Times.

“Communities across the country are rallying outside of newspapers owned by the Tribune Company to support journalistic integrity and an unbiased news media,” Trumka said. “These communities are calling on the Tribune Company to not sell its newspapers to Koch Industries.”

Ownership of the Tribune newspapers would give the Koch brothers control of papers read by 5.6 million people on weekdays and 8.7 million on Sundays. These include many leading regional newspapers including the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Hartford Courant and the Orlando Sentinel, as well as extend their propaganda reach significantly on the Web.

“The Tribune’s newspapers are highly respected for their journalistic integrity and public interest reporting,” Trumka said. “Although the Tribune newspapers are by no means uniform in their editorial views, they have maintained a culture of objectivity and long histories of seeking to serve the entire communities which they cover.”

In contrast, the Koch brothers are well-known for providing substantial financial backing to institutions dedicated to promoting an ideological agenda. They have given millions to right-wing organizations that want to dismantle Social Security, repeal health care reform, overturn Wall Street regulations, roll back environmental standards and eliminate workers’ collective bargaining rights.

“We call on the Tribune Company’s board of directors to carefully consider all alternatives to a sale of its newspapers to the Koch brothers,” Trumka said. “We ask that the board use its best efforts to maintain the Tribune’s high standards of journalistic integrity, and to keep these newspapers responsive to the local communities they serve.”

© 2013 – 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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