Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Wednesday March 27th, 2013, 5:43pm

Rumored Koch Brothers Buy Of Tribune Company Raises Red Flags For Local Community Groups

The ultra conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch reportedly have their eye on purchasing some or all of the Tribune Company, which includes the Chicago Tribune and other major urban newspapers — and that has some local advocacy groups worried.

“It’s hard enough to get our stories covered in mainstream papers from the perspective of working families and communities of color,” said Amisha Patel, executive director of the Grassroots Collaborative, a community-labor coalition focused on racial and economic justice in the state.

The Koch brothers, who Patel said are known for dismantling the rights of workers and working families, would only be interested in purchasing the Tribune Company and its assets so they can “pass something off of it.”

“What are the real intentions for them trying to control it,” she asked.

Rumors first surfaced that the brothers are interested in acquiring the company earlier this month via a report in La Weekly, but the billionaires have not yet confirmed or denied it.

If the rumor is true, and the entire Tribune Company is purchased, the deal would also include some 20 television stations, including Chicago's WGN TV.

Rev. C.J. Hawking, executive director of Arise Chicago, a faith-based workers' rights organization, said some religious leaders have “grave concerns” over the possibility of the Koch brothers purchasing the company, which also includes the Baltimore Sun and Los Angeles Times.

“Coverage of our lives is essential to a democracy and to create a thriving community,” she said. “It does not appear that that is the Koch brothers’ agenda.”

She added the Koch brothers have an “anti-working families” agenda, saying she fears the news from Tribune outlets would be aligned with their beliefs if they bought some or all of the media company.

More than 80,000 people from across the country have signed on to a Daily Kos and Courage Campaign petition in opposition of the possible purchase.

Rachel Colyer, associate campaign director at the Daily Kos, wrote in an email to supporters over the weekend that the potential buy would allow the Koch brothers to peddle “discredited ideas and right-wing propaganda.”

“The Koch brothers are well-known for buying elections, funding anti-science research, bankrolling ultra-conservative organizations, union-busting, and even for organizing the Tea Party. Now they want to buy the Los Angeles Times to add another mouthpiece for their corrupt agenda,” Colyer added.

The petition will be delivered to Peter Liguori, president of the Tribune Company.

Billionaires purchasing media companies is nothing new, Patel said.

But if this deal goes through, it could deliver another blow to Americans looking for multiple perspectives highlighted within the mainstream media, she said.

Hawking and Patel both agreed that the prospect of the Koch brothers purchasing all of part of the Tribune company raises serious concerns about where and how Chicagoans, and others, would get their news.

Covering community news has “moral underpinnings,” Hawking added.

“Often reporters have to make a choice as to what they are going to cover. What’s going to fit into the 30-minute news slot or column,” she said. “They make choices all the time, and it’s always been my desire that the newspaper would cover the real concerns of the people and not all that sensationalistic other stuff.”


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