Tribune journalist: Murdoch is a newspaperman; the Kochs are not

The New York Times reported over the weekend that the Koch brothers are eyeing Tribune’s eight newspapers and that “the thinking inside the Tribune Company … is that Koch Industries could prove the most appealing buyer.”

What do the company’s journalists think of that? Here are two views:

I haven’t been at the [Chicago] Trib as long as most but I’ve already survived layoffs and gone long enough w/o a raise to understand what it has been like the last four or so years.tribkoch To survive so much (and to have done some pretty damn amazing work in the process) it’s extremely disheartening to know serious bids are being entertained to sell to the Kochs.

Murdoch, for all his flaws, is a newspaper man. The Kochs are not. I have no faith in their belief in the importance of a free and robust watchdog press. Frankly, such a press seems antithetical to their goals and harmful to their influence in the political process.

Doing fiduciary duty is one thing. Completely understand why the higher ups need to crunch the Koch numbers. But I think they need to examine who these people are outside of the margins in their ledgers. Is this really the society we want to live in? Where the hyper-rich control the politicians and the press?

Our leaders should ask themselves that question and then realize that this decision may go a long way in determining that society.

As much as we mock the phrase, we in this newsroom truly do love “Mother Tribune.” I hope we can find a buyer who shares in that very heartfelt love.

Perhaps we should buy it? Can we buy it?

Another view from a Tribune Co. journalist who isn’t in Chicago:

The news is a bit terrifying given the idea that the Koch bros. pitched “media” as the third prong of a strategy to push their political and social ideals onto a wider audience.

That said, it is nice to know that someone with deep pockets would want to invest in our newspapers.

I don’t think anyone has a sense of whether the Kochs would be benevolent owners or chain saw-bearing dictators.

One question is whether they would strip the cash out of the operation (we’re still pretty profitable) as a short-term investment to fund other things, say, right-wing media startups or think tanks; or would they actually pour a little money into the operations to fill vacant reporting positions, etc.

From a business standpoint, I can’t see the Kochs holding onto Tribune’s smaller properties – The Morning Call or the Hartford Courant – and those papers may be targets for someone like Warren Buffett to pick up in a second deal, further complicating things.

One thing is certain, it will be nice to have this whole thing wrapped up.

I’m interested in hearing from other Tribune journalists. (I’ll keep you anonymous.) Email me at jim@jimromenesko.com

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