Quick Hit Ashlee Rezin Wednesday May 8th, 2013, 3:29pm

Potential Koch Brothers Purchase Of Tribune Co. Incites Protest (VIDEO)

A group of approximately 20 demonstrators Wednesday protested the potential sale of all or some of the Tribune Company to the Koch brothers, Charles, 77, and David, 72, the billionaire industrialists and supporters of conservative causes.

According to protesters, if the Kansas-native Koch brothers were to own the Chicago-based multimedia corporation, right-wing propaganda will be pushed through mainstream media. 

Activists protested outside of the Tribune Tower, at 435 North Michigan Ave., and attempted to deliver a letter to Bruce Karsh, chairman of the board for the Tribune Company, asking him to intervene on the potential sale. Karsh is also the owner of Oaktree Capital Management LP, the Tribune Company’s largest shareholder.

“People need independent, objective, daily journalism that they can trust—not libertarian propaganda,” the letter addressed to Karsh, who was elected chairman in January, reads.

The Tribune Company publishes several newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Baltimore Sun, Hartford Courant and Orlando Sentinel. It also operates more than 20 television stations, including Chicago’s WGN.

“We want the Tribune and the investors of the Tribune to know that we want to maintain an objective newspaper, one that will not push a radical right-wing agenda,” said Deivid Rojas, 24, an organizer with the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago (WOCC).

The Koch brothers, according to Rojas, are “notorious” for supporting policies that attack the working class and unions. He said they would use this opportunity to purchase the Tribune Company to push an “extremist conservative agenda.”

Rumors that the brothers are interested in purchasing all or a portion of the media company emerged in mid-March.

The Tribune Company is valued at about $623 million. The private energy, chemical and manufacturing company the brothers share ownership in, Kansas-based Koch Industries, has annual revenues of approximately $115 billion, according to the New York Times.

Time Magazine included both Charles and David among the “100 Most Influential People of 2011” for “investing in free-market think tanks, magazines and activist groups to evangelize the economic system that has rewarded them so lavishly.”

The magazine also points out that David was the Libertarian Party's vice-presidential candidate in the 1980 presidential election.

But according to Rojas, the protest against the potential Koch brothers’ takeover is not about conservatism versus liberalism.

“This is about protecting objective, quality, investigative journalism,” he said. “The Koch brothers have shown again and again they use their platforms to push their agenda.”

Eugene Horcher, 75, a member of the Jane Addams Senior Caucus, participated in Wednesday’s protest. He said he fears for the future of Social Security, and doesn’t want the Koch brothers to campaign against it through the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets.

“The Koch brothers want to destroy Social Security, that means (younger generations) won’t get it when it’s needed,” he said. “We need to make sure Social Security stays around.”

Horcher signed the letter, which was left with Frank Rocco, a security manager at the Chicago Tribune building. Rocco confirmed he would deliver the letter to Karsh.

In addition to “privatizing and essentially killing” Social Security, Shani Smith, 38, a project organizer with Stand Up! Chicago, said the Koch brothers push an agenda that ultimately defunds schools, fights against raising the minimum wage and attempts to overturn new health care laws.

“How is the right-wing agenda going to impact Chicago’s communities,” Smith asked. “Our most vulnerable communities stand to lose the most from these damaging policies.”

Members of Stand Up! Chicago and other participating organizations, including SEIU* and the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, passed out flyers during the protest, calling on people to sign a Daily Kos petition against the potential purchase.  

The petition, which refers to the Koch brothers as “right-wing super villains” and has received more than 102,000 signatures, is directed to Peter Liguori, president of the Tribune Company.

The Newspaper Guild–Communications Workers of America, a labor union representing journalists, issued the following statement in April regarding the potential sale:

Recently you’ve seen many petitions asking that the Koch brothers not be allowed to buy the Tribune Company’s newspapers. We understand why the Kochs breed this distrust. They are active political proponents of harsh right-wing positions. We’re also not certain that Tribune will listen to anything but money when the final decision is made.

What we do know is that great papers publish credible, trusted journalism online and on the printed page. Whoever comes to own these mastheads needs to understand that protecting newsrooms from ideological taint is no small thing. The future of American journalism depends on the ability to print truth, not opinion.

We call on Tribune to make a pledge that they’ll only sell to a buyer that will protect the objectivity of the news product by making a public commitment to doing so. The Newspaper Guild-CWA and the Communications Workers of America seek your support in this goal.

"We do not want the Tribune to sell to the highest bidder, which right now is the Koch brothers," said Smith. "They will push a radical right-wing agenda."

A representative from the Tribune Company declined to comment on the protests or the potential purchase.

Here’s more from Smith and Wednesday’s protest:

* The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this website.

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