( Pigging Out With Koch)

By Jerry Waxman

Sentinel Koch Protest

In case you haven’t heard the news, the Chicago Tribune reported that headline the day that Truman won the election in 1948. Their track record has been about as accurate ever since that date. The great and iconic columnist Mike Royko went to work for them in 1984 only after Rupert Murdoch bought the Chicago Sun Times. Some of Royko’s choicest criticisms against Murdoch were “No self-respecting fish would want to be wrapped in a Murdoch paper” and “His goal is not quality journalism. His goal is vast power for Rupert Murdoch, political power”. It’s amazing how something said 30 years ago is still relevant today. Current Tribune ownership couldn’t possibly be more right wing than Murdoch so why is Chicago still in the hands of the Democrats? Could it be that Murdoch’s and Sam Zell’s message just sucks? That may not be a scholarly treatise but you can bet that it’s pretty accurate. Cities like Philadelphia have recently witnessed the demise of a formerly great newspaper, The Philadelphia Inquirer, bought by Moses Annenberg in 1930 to take advantage of his racing sheet empire, but elevated by his son, Walter and again by the Knight organization over the years. McClatchy bought it from the Knights and then sold it to a group of conservative businessmen who in their own Charles Foster Kane egos thought it would be “fun to own a newspaper.” P.S.  They are in receivership.

So, let’s say that you had a couple of billion dollars just lying around and your candidates nationally had just been whupped in the 2012 elections after you and your allies had spent a gazillion dollars trying to get them elected. What would you do? Well, it might be “fun to own a media empire”, especially at fire sale rates; after all, the price mentioned is approximately 15% of what Sam Zell originally paid for it. For Charles and David Koch the sale is mere pocket change. They wouldn’t even miss it if the enterprise failed, and they would make more money by giving it to Mitt Romney to liquidate. Business people look at bottom lines. Forgetting what it costs to buy, the day to day costs of running that media empire would be dear. It would take years to make things profitable if that’s even possible. They are better off just buying out all the advertising space in all of the enterprises and spreading their message that way. No muss, no fuss, plenty of coverage.

Many people in Central Florida are very concerned about this because the Tribune Corp owns the Orlando Sentinel, the region’s only print daily, and fear that a Koch takeover could spell doom and gloom in the region and cancel any hope of objective journalism in Central Florida, yet the conservative element is hoping and praying that they will. Upon hearing the news blogger Tom Tillison posted on his Facebook page “Be still my beating heart!”  Yet, West Orlando News Online publisher Keith Longmore, a true progressive, thinks that this could be the best thing to happen for his publication.

Florida Watch Action head, Amy Ritter, is quite upset about the possibility of a Koch Bros. takeover and organized a protest Thursday afternoon, May 15, at the offices of the Orlando Sentinel. Approximately 30 protesters waving signs showed up. Prior to the organized protest several members of the Sentinel staff came out to say hello, but were completely silent on the issue. Similar demonstrations have taken place in cities like Allentown, Pa., Chicago and Los Angeles where Tribune papers are. In Los Angeles, many staff members threatened to quit if the sale went through, but L.A. is a big media town with many more opportunities than Orlando. This is an extremely small media market, and you don’t want to lose your job here. We did manage to espy Scott Maxwell, Mark Schlueb and Dave Damron, but they were nowhere to be found once the protest started. Other members of the press were there and recorded the event, however, no broadcast or cable stations were present. As far as I am aware the only videos taken were by yours truly and Tom Tillison.

Orlando Press Corps

(Left to right  Tom Tillison, BizPac Review, Billy Manes, Orlando Weekly, Mark Schlueb and Scott Maxwell of the Sentinel)

Ritter addressed the crowd of about fifty voicing her concerns about the Sentinal turning into a propaganda machine for the Koch Bros narrow Tea Party type views Other speakers included Sue Casterline, a subscriber for over 30 years, who will cancel her subscription if the Koch’s buy the paper, Holly Fussell, a Rollins College student, who uses the Sentinel for research and she fears that her information will be tainted by Koch ownership and Melissa, another concerned student who echoed Casterline’s and Fussell’s concerns. Ritter then ended the gathering with a chant and encouraged everyone to wave signs at rush hour traffic.

Ritter states that there will be other actions and that the community at large needs to know what’s happening. The Sentinel can’t comment on it and the Koch Bros. will not comment on a pending sale. A spokesman for the Kochs said that they invest in a lot of business opportunities and that the Tribune Company is just one. That’s all well and good, but I don’t want to wake up one morning and find out that Dewey won in 2014. Do you?

Jerry Waxman

Jerry Waxman