CBS Touts 'Vocal Opposition', 'Anxiety' Surrounding Koch Brothers' Possible Purchase of Newspapers

Friday's CBS This Morning played up the "vocal opposition" of liberal activist groups who are railing against the possible sale of several newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times, to the libertarian Koch Brothers. Charlie Rose trumpeted that "critics fear politics could get in the way of journalism" if Koch Industries purchases the media outlets.

Jan Crawford underlined how "the rumors are causing anxiety and protests from unions, and liberal groups are seeking to block any sale to the Koch brothers. Some newspaper staffers also avowed they would quit, fearing the Koch brothers could impose their conservative slant to the news."

Rose teased Crawford's report with his "politics could get in the way of journalism" line. He also noted in the lead-in for the segment that "billionaire Warren Buffett paid more than $300 million to buy 28 newspapers. But now, two other billionaires may be looking at buying some of the country's biggest papers, and that is leading to vocal opposition."

Jan Crawford, CBS News Correspondent; Screen Cap From 10 May 2013 Edition of CBS This Morning | NewsBusters.orgThe CBS journalist spent the first part of her report revisiting the "glory days" of Chicago newspapers, stating that "Chicago's newspaper traditions are as colorful as the characters who filled the city's newsrooms." She featured a clip from the 1931 film "The Front Page" – "the classic newspaper movie set, naturally, in Chicago" – and continued that Windy City's "real-life reporters and columnists are just as legendary, from movie critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, to Ann Landers."

Crawford then turned to the Tribune Company's possible sale of the Chicago Tribune, as well as seven other publications. After zeroing in on the "anxiety and protests" from liberals and journalists alike, she turned to former Tribune editor Owen Youngman, who downplayed their concerns:

OWEN YOUNGMAN, JOURNALISM PROFESSOR: In a very real way, who owns the newspaper is not nearly as important to a city as it was 20, 50 – certainly, a hundred years ago.

CRAWFORD: But Owen Youngman, a longtime editor at the Tribune who now teaches journalism at Northwestern University, says his former colleagues shouldn't fret about the Koch brothers.

YOUNGMAN: No individual owner is going to have the chance, I don't think, to dominate public discourse the way that it might have been true in the past.

CRAWFORD: Kogan also doubts anyone would actually quit. Newspaper jobs, these days, are scarce.

KOGAN: Reporters are not immune to...paranoia and hyperbole and speculation, because they generally need to talk about something. I cannot imagine any sort of mass exodus if these guys buy the paper.

Near the end of the segment, the correspondent noted that "Youngman points out when Rupert Murdoch bought the Wall Street Journal, it was a great newspaper, and it's still a great newspaper today".

Anchor Norah O'Donnell added her two cents after Crawford's report: "Certainly, a lot of people are watching, because they Koch brothers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to influence the political process." When Rose again mentioned Buffett's newspaper purchases ("Most of the papers Warren Buffett buys are in smaller markets"), O'Donnell repeated her colleague's point about Murdoch's purchase of the Wall Street Journal, with her co-anchor adding that the media mogul "made it better in the judgement of many people, including journalists."

The full transcript of Jan Crawford's report from Friday's CBS This Morning:


CHARLIE ROSE: Billionaire Warren Buffett paid more than $300 million to buy 28 newspapers. But now, two other billionaires may be looking at buying some of the country's biggest papers, and that is leading to vocal opposition.

Jan Crawford is in Chicago. Jan, good morning.

JAN CRAWFORD: Well, good morning, Charlie; good morning, Norah. You know, Chicago is famously known as the city of big shoulders, but at its heart always were the newspapers. This was a great newspaper town, so reports that the billionaire Koch brothers are interested in possibly buying the Tribune and other newspapers across the country have some people here wondering if this is the end of an era, or if that era – the glory days of newspapers – ended a long time ago.

[CBS News Graphic: "Chicago Print Protest: Concerns Over Billionaires Interest In Newspaper"]

CRAWFORD (voice-over): Chicago's newspaper traditions are as colorful as the characters who filled the city's newsrooms, going back to the days of 'The Front Page'-

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1 (from the 1931 movie "The Front Page"): I'm no stuffed shirt writing peanut ads. I'm a newspaper man!

CRAWFORD: The classic newspaper movie set, naturally, in Chicago. The real-life reporters and columnists are just as legendary, from movie critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, to Ann Landers and, of course, the voice of the city, chain-smoking, booze-drinking Mike Royko.

RICK KOGAN, CHICAGO AUTHOR: This – in this era, is when the newspaper was the heart and soul of a city.

CRAWFORD: Rick Kogan is a longtime newspaper man, a fixture in Chicago and at the Billy Goat Tavern, where journalists used to gather and where we talked this week about the glory days.

CRAWFORD (on-camera): It seems like newspapers are just such an integral part of what Chicago is.

KOGAN: In this town, more than any other, newspapers became almost like a part of the family.

CRAWFORD (voice-over): But now, there are reports the family could soon change, as Tribune Company considers whether to sell the flagship newspaper and seven others nationwide, including the Los Angeles Times. The company emerged from bankruptcy in December, and says all its media properties are profitable. But these have been dark days for daily newspapers. The Rocky Mountain News and Cincinnati Post closed. The New Orleans Times-Picayune and Birmingham News now are published only three days a week.

Among those reportedly interested in the Tribune papers are billionaires Charles and David Koch, businessmen also known for supporting conservative causes-

UNIDENTIFIED MALE ANNOUNCER (from Americans for Prosperity ad): The fastest rate of job creation-

CRAWFORD: Including spending hundreds of millions of dollars for Republican candidates. Koch Industries won't confirm whether or not it's exploring the purchase, and the Tribune Company is says only, 'There is a lot of interest in our newspapers, which we haven't solicited.'

Still, the rumors are causing anxiety and protests from unions, and liberal groups are seeking to block any sale to the Koch brothers. Some newspaper staffers also avowed they would quit, fearing the Koch brothers could impose their conservative slant to the news.

OWEN YOUNGMAN, JOURNALISM PROFESSOR: In a very real way, who owns the newspaper is not nearly as important to a city as it was 20, 50 – certainly, a hundred years ago.

CRAWFORD: But Owen Youngman, a longtime editor at the Tribune who now teaches journalism at Northwestern University, says his former colleagues shouldn't fret about the Koch brothers.

YOUNGMAN: No individual owner is going to have the chance, I don't think, to dominate public discourse the way that it might have been true in the past.

CRAWFORD: Kogan also doubts anyone would actually quit. Newspaper jobs, these days, are scarce.

KOGAN: Reporters are not immune to – to – you know, paranoia and hyperbole and speculation, because they generally need to talk about something. I cannot imagine any sort of mass exodus if these guys buy the paper.

CRAWFORD (live): Now, Youngman and others make the point that the media is so diffused now, with the Internet and other sources of media, that the owners of a newspaper just don't have the same impact that they used to, and there's really no indication yet that the Koch brothers, if they bought these papers, would try to change things. Youngman points out when Rupert Murdoch bought the Wall Street Journal, it was a great newspaper, and it's still a great newspaper today. Charlie and Norah?

O'DONNELL: Jan Crawford, thank you. I saw David Koch recently. I asked him if he was going to buy the paper. He said no comment.

ROSE: Yes-

O'DONNELL: But certainly, a lot of people are watching, because they Koch brothers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to influence the political process.

ROSE: Most of the papers Warren Buffett buys are in smaller markets.

O'DONNELL: Yes. And then, of course, Rupert Murdoch bought the Wall Street Journal and-

ROSE: And made it better in the judgement of many people, including journalists.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center