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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Grassroots group aims to raise $660 million to buy Tribune Company, outbid Koch Brothers



A non-profit organization that spawned from the Occupy movement recently started a crowd-sourcing campaign that attempts to outbid the Koch Brothers and purchase the Tribune Company. While it it unlikely the group will gather the money, it is the most recent manifestation of public outcry over the possibility that the tycoons might turn the chain of newspapers into a mouthpiece for conservative causes.

The group, The Other 98%, started on May 16 a campaign called "Free The Press, Buy The Tribune Company" with the tagline "It's time for ordinary people to take back the media. Help us democratize the Tribune Company." Their goal is to raise $660 million in 31 days to buy out the Tribune Company before billionaires Charles and David Koch do.

“Instead of sitting back an allowing whichever victor to manipulate us through the media, we've decided to stage an intervention,” the group wrote in its Indiegogo campaign page. “We thought, if a community based NFL team can work then why not a newspaper?”

The organization has raised over $130,000 -- or less than 0.02% of their goal -- so far. Some analysts doubt the group can raise the money but see the campaign as a valuable experiment.

"It's of course ridiculous to imagine that they would hit the $660 million goal, but I do think this is an interesting new form of protest and exercise of free speech,” Dan Pacheco, the chair of journalism innovation at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, told Mashable. “It shows that a good number of people care enough about an objective press to vote for it with their wallets, in as much as the press ever had pure objectivity in the first place.”

The Koch Brothers are the owners of Koch Industries and have a reputation of being influential conservative activists. They are currently believed to be the only bidders interested in buying all eight of the Tribune company's newspapers, including the L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun and more, The Huffington Post reported.

Journalists, union members and activists have said they were worried that the Koch Brothers might skew the company's editorial independence. The rumors over the possible purchase has led to protests and half the L.A. TImes' staff to hint they might quit if the transaction goes through.



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