Florida Watch Action will be protesting the potential sale of the Orlando Sentinel and other Tribune Company newspapers to the Koch Brothers in Orlando this afternoon.
Protests have been held at other papers owned by the Tribune Company recently as well. At the Los Angeles Times, half their staff threatened to quit, should the Koch's buy the paper, and around 300 labor union members and activists protested earlier this week at an investment firm that holds a 20% stake in the Tribune Company. Last week another protest was held at the Chicago Tribune.
From Florida Watch:
The “billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch have bought more politicians, think tanks, colleges and universities, and media outlets than you can shake a stick at," the group says in a promotion of the planned protest outside the Sentinel set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
"And their tentacles of influence are spreading further," the group said. "Now they are trying to purchase eight daily newspapers, including the Orlando and Sun Sentinel, to further their libertarian anti-government, anti-union agenda.”
The Tribune Company's CEO went on the defensive yesterday and sent an email to employees Wednesday calling speculation about a transaction premature:
“A sale transaction is only one of our possible strategic options, and there are many others.”
The Koch Brothers caused a similar stir when they began funding at Florida State University, funding that was subject to their approval of chosen professors, even though they claimed they would have no agenda or economics influence over the curriculum. They also fund the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans for Prosperity, Tea Party groups and the Cato Institute.
If they were to buy the newspapers in Florida, it would push much of the news influence far to the right, especially in the I-4 corridor, the more progressive part of the state. As Progress Florida puts it, it would be tantamount to a Tea Party takeover of Florida news:
The Koch Brothers are chief architects and funders of the extreme right wing political machine. They're behind corporate front group "think tanks" like the Heritage Foundation and the CATO Institute. The Kochs are also the largest funders of the Tea Party movement and are notorious peddlers of falsehoods about Medicare, Social Security, worker’s rights, climate change, and more.
It's important that local newspapers like the Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel remain unbiased sources of reliable news, not as propaganda outlets for the Koch Brothers' extreme ideological machine. But if the Koch Brothers are allowed to purchase the Tribune Company, that is exactly what will happen.
There's a reason why freedom of the press is mentioned in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. The health of our democracy is based on a well-informed citizenry. The Koch Brothers' attempt to subvert local media is a direct attack on this fundamental foundation of our country.