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Critics of Tribune paper sale to Koch brothers heave momentary sigh of relief

Protestors can put down the picket signs and megaphones; the Tribune newspapers will not be taken over by conservative billionaires, at least not by Charles and David Koch.

After months of speculation, outrage and protests, the duo has finally backed off purchasing the Tribune papers. The newspapers were put up for sale earlier this year when Tribune hired bankers at JPMorgan Chase and Evercore Partners to sell its newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and Baltimore Sun.

Last week, the Daily Caller reported that the Koch brothers had determined that buying the papers was “not economically viable,” leaving others to wonder whether the intense public backlash to the deal played a heavier role in the decision making.

Nicole Carty thinks the “pressure was too hot” for the Koch brothers. She is the face of the Free The Press campaign and a spokesperson for The Other 98%, a nonprofit organization that aimed to outbid the Koch brothers for the Tribune papers back in June. “People like the Koch brothers will always talk about how it was a bad investment, but there was a lot of pressure put on them than more than just our little campaign to not buy the papers…I think the pressure was too hot honestly,” said Carty.

Free The Press ended a few months ago and was only able to reach $210,528 out of its $660 million goal to outbid the two billionaires. Although they couldn’t purchase the papers themselves, Carty believes her campaign and the other protests around the country really influenced the bid for the Tribune. “There was a broad coalition of people trying to make it not happen…I  think our campaign created such a spectacle so outlandish and so interactive that it got the word out there and set the ground work for other actions and campaigns.”

But Carty doesn’t think the Tribune papers are safe from conservatives yet, noting that there has been speculation that Rupert Murdoch might be interested. As a result, The Other 98% has turned its attention to creating alternative media. “Right now, we are working on Channel 98 (a product of The Other 98%).” It will have “original production and talk about news that isn’t being circulated in mainstream media.” The Other 98% has two segments in production right now and will launch Channel 98 next month.

Although Tribune declined to comment to the New York Times on the Kochs’ decision, a spokesperson told the Times the company will continue with its planned spinoff, where its digital assets, including and Classified Ventures LLC., will be separated from the print publications. Tribune continues to plan on splitting its TV and radio stations from its print properties as well. The Chicago Tribune reported that this separation will “likely push back any potential sale of the publishing assets” until 2014.

As for the billionaire brothers, they released a statement saying, “Koch continues to have an interest in the media business, and we’re exploring a broad range of opportunities where we think we can add value.” To that, Carty claimed, “people will definitely keep [the fight] in motion against the Kochs.” The race for media control “is always a battle.”

-Cara Gavin


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