Hooray for the Koch brothers. Maybe they can save this industrry, or at least put off its demise:
Three years ago, Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists and supporters of libertarian causes, held a seminar of like-minded, wealthy political donors at the St. Regis Resort in Aspen, Colo. They laid out a three-pronged, 10-year strategy to shift the country toward a smaller government with less regulation and taxes.
The first two pieces of the strategy — educating grass-roots activists and influencing politics — were not surprising, given the money they have given to policy institutes and political action groups. But the third one was: media.
Other than financing a few fringe libertarian publications, the Kochs have mostly avoided media investments. Now, Koch Industries, the sprawling private company of which Charles G. Koch serves as chairman and chief executive, is exploring a bid to buy the Tribune Company’s eight regional newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant.
The story is from The New York Times. Careful readers will not that the headline refers to the "conservative" Koch brothers while the first paragraph refers to their "libertarian" causes. That kind of ignorance or malice (hard to tell which sometimes) in the mainstream media shows exactly why we need somebody like the Kochs to shake things up. The Tribune Company owns some damn big papers, and a new editorial direction in them would be significant.
I don't agree with the complaints of some conservatives and libertarians that the decline in popularity of journalism in general and newspapers in particular is the result of (or even mostly the result of) the fact that their adoption of unreflective liberal attitudes makes them out of step with most Americans. That's just one part of it. There are many other factors involved, including the biggest culprit, the changing way people consume news.
I can't speak about all those newspapers, but I remember when the Chicago Tribune had a reliably conservative editorial page. Now it's a bending-with-the-wind mish-mash; I'm not sure what it's politics are or even it it has any strong principles except the usual "caring politicians must do the right thing" pragmatism that's become the editorial page norm these days. Of course I could say the same thing about the Indianapolis Star. In fact, I will.
When my mother was very young, kiving on Poset Hill and on 4th street in the 1920s abd 1930s, her mother would go next door to the neighbor's to read the newspaper. The only newspaper my grandfather would allow in the house was the Chicago Tribune. No Fort Wayne newspaper was reliably consebative enough for him - and the Foty Wayne grocery stores didn't run their ads in the Tribune.
A couple of years ago, I calculated the narket capitalization of the Journal-Register company, and it was about $65 thousand dollars, and they had a couple dozen dailies, a few hundred weeklies and a couple of city/regional magazines.magazines. Of course, the price was so low, many stockholders would probably hang onto their shares as a gamble, rather than sell out for the price of a haircut.
As much as I understand the fear of the left towards the Koch brothers, I think they are missing the point - and those who like the Koch brothers miss the point as well. People aren't stupid. If you agree with everything newspaper A says on the editorial pages, and disagree with newspaper B, you'll still get newspaper B if B has the ads you want, good obituaries, Dear Abby, a good variety of pencil puzzles, and your favorite comic strips, and A doesn't.
Political news, especially natioal and world affairs, doesn't sell newspapers - and I can't tell from the coverage of high school sports and traffic accidents whether it is a liberal or conservative newspaper. I remember a front-page story in the Journal-Gazette about 40 years ago, that talked about farmers' fields of alphalpha, but that ignorance of the area's largest industry is no worse than newscasters talking about Lake Wuh-WAHS-ee instead of Wah-was-SEE. Ignorance and incompetence are not exclusives with any political bent.
As a hollywood mogus was fond od saying, if you want to send a message, send a [bleep]ing telegram. The Tribune Copany has been mismanaged for decades, and walking in wuth a big was of dough won't rescue it and make it politically influential.