If the Koch Brothers Want to Pay Too Much for Newspapers, Let ThemS

Evil corporatist archconservative billionaires the Koch brothers are considering making a bid to buy several big newspapers from the Tribune Co., including the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune. Unions and liberal politicians are justifiably alarmed by this prospect. They're trying to pressure the shareholders not to sell to the Kochs. Here's another, perhaps more productive idea: let the Kochs buy that crap.

The Koch brothers, much like fellow archconservative billionaire Rupert Murdoch, are old. Old, and rich, and conservative. This means a few things:

1. They feel (wrongly, not that it matters) that the media has an incorrigible liberal bias against their interests.

2. They have enough money to buy media outlets.

3. They don't understand new media.

Therefore, rich old conservatives, like Rupert Murdoch or Philip Anschutz or the Koch brothers love the idea of buying newspapers. They don't care that the era of newspaper dominance of the media is now permanently over. They don't care that newspapers are, in general, a horrible business (there is a reason Tribune wants to sell, not hold). They're old! And too rich for anyone to tell them about all the newfangled news on the computers these days. To rich old guys, newspapers are still the premiere media outlets in America. Why, in the mind of the Koch brothers, the LA Times is probably still "the most powerful media outlet on the entire West Coast," rather than "the dessicated corpse of what was once the most powerful media outlet on the West Coast and is now a site that once in a while beats Nikki Finke."

It's perfectly reasonable for rational non-archconservatives to not want the Koch brothers to buy their metropolitan newspapers and turn them into local versions of National Review. But the reality is that rational non-ideological businesspeople will never be able to outbid these rich old conservatives, because A) rational people realize that buying these newspapers is a horrible business idea, and B) the ability to use a newspaper's pages to spout your own wingnut ideology is really the only good reason to get into the newspaper business right now, anyhow. Rich old conservatives will happily pay more than these papers are worth (witness Murdoch's huge bid for the WSJ) in order to enjoy the imaginary bully pulpit that comes with them. It's just a fact.

We're simply here to point out the bright side: the reason these rich old conservatives don't have more competition for these papers is that these papers are far less influential than they used to be. Hell, let the rich old fuckers have the papers. The only people who reliably read most metro newspapers these days are other old people. Funneling the Murdochs and Kochs of the world into the newspaper industry will, in the long run, afford them far less influence than they would get if they were, say, equally rich and savvy venture capitalists funding a host of new media projects that might have the potential for flourishing growth, rather than a guarantee of slow decline.

So take heart, unfortunate liberals. Sure, your local newspaper may soon become a right wing rag. But in all likelihood your local newspaper has already had enough layoffs to make it pretty worthless anyhow. A smart young liberal with no money and a blog can build up more real public influence today than the Chicago Tribune's in-house editorial page has (even if someone paid millions for the right to run that page). The future of the media, like it or not, is not in the newspaper industry. So let the rich old fuckers have the past.

[Photo: Getty]