It Isn’t Partisan to Fight for Local Journalism

This week Free Press launched a campaign asking the Tribune Company not to sell its eight major daily newspapers to the Koch brothers, the billionaires notorious for funding a range of far-right causes.

But this isn’t about partisan politics. Our opposition to the Koch brothers is rooted in the issues Free Press has been working on for a decade: promoting quality journalism and curbing media consolidation.

Our communities need journalism that serves communities and uncovers corporate and political wrongdoing. That’s why we’ve fought media ownership battles against the owners of Fox News (Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.) and the owners of MSNBC (cable giant Comcast), among many others. And in all of these fights we’ve worked alongside both liberal and conservative groups.

Putting too much power in the hands of a few is never a good idea. That’s why we’re calling on the Tribune Company to sell their papers — which include some of America’s largest newsrooms — to local owners, not to Murdoch or the Koch brothers.

Local media ownership is better than chain ownership. Local owners are more accountable to their communities and more dedicated to serving those communities. Even in this changing media landscape, local newspapers are the dominant source for news and information, both on- and offline. Their reporting still sets the agenda for other local media.

Absentee media owners don’t have that connection to local people, issues and debates and they tend to focus on Wall Street, not Main Street. News reportssuggest that local owners are interested in many of the Tribune papers, but that the Tribune Company wants to sell them as a bundle. The Koch brothers, needless to say, are interested in the entire bundle.

Journalism is supposed to be the Fourth Estate — the institution that holds our civic, political and corporate leaders accountable. The New York Timesreports that buying the Tribune’s papers is part of a 10-year political strategy for the Koch brothers to push policies that benefit their personal and corporate interests. You hear nothing about public accountability or an informed citizenry from the Kochs.

What we do know is that in the last election, the Koch brothers funneled a huge amount of money into shady Super PACs and other advocacy groups that sought to hide their donors and mislead the public. In addition, the Koch brothers have funded voter-suppression efforts in some of the very communities where they now want to own newspapers. We don’t want newspaper owners who peddle propaganda and discourage civic participation.

Our fight here is about journalism’s fundamental values. We need journalism that helps communities make sense of complex issues. A newspaper should not be a platform to further a corporate agenda.

There is no evidence that the Koch brothers will be trustworthy stewards of local journalism. We want local owners to have the opportunity to reclaim the news in their neighborhoods. If you agree, join the thousands of people who are calling on the Tribune Company to stand with local communities, protect quality journalism and say no to the Kochs.