Media / Money
Stop the Koch Brothers Big Media Grab, Students Tell UW
by Ansel Herz
on Fri, Jun 7, 2013 at 3:08 PM
UW students brought a mock-Seattle Times cover of the headline they want to see to the college's Treasury office.
Are you scared of the Koch brothers? "You look a little scared. We're really scared," Morgan Currier, a senior at UW, told the university's Associate Treasurer during a meeting on the sixth floor of an office building near the campus on Wednesday. "We're hoping you can weigh in and say you're really concerned that the Koch brothers could own a big part of our media."
United Students Against Sweatshops wants the UW to send a message to Oaktree Capital Management, one of the UW endowment's investment managers: Don't sell the Tribune Company to notorious right-wing industrialists David and Charles Koch.
A portion (neither the university nor the students informed me of how much) of the university's $2.23 billion endowment is managed by Oaktree, which currently owns the largest stake (23 percent) of Tribune Company. The ailing media conglomerate runs the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, six other daily newspapers, and various TV stations, including Q13 Fox in Seattle.
Oaktree is rumored to want to sell off its stake. The Koch brothers are interested in buying. If you're not familiar, the Koch brothers are evil, global-warming-denying billionaires who've poured millions into right-wing campaign coffers. They're America's Rupert Murdochs, or they could be, if they get into the media monopoly game.
Why protest over a bunch of newspapers and TV stations? I asked the students. Don't young people just absorb information by osmosis through the Internet these days? Rachael Shevrin, a sophomore, said she's offended by stereotypes of her generation as uninformed and uninterested in the news. "Traditional newspapers still set the agenda," another student pointed out.
If the UW takes a stand, the decision will come from the university's Board of Regents. A separate group of students calling for divestment from fossil fuels hopes to present before the regents next week, Anna Sarna, the Associate Treasurer, told me. Students have previously pressured the regents into supporting shareholder resolutions against human rights abuses in Sudan and Burma.
Media ownership isn't a moral outrage, though, according to David Domke, a journalism professor and chair of the UW Department of Communication. "Whether it's William Randolph Hearst, Ted Turner, or Rupert Murdoch, it doesn't seem to me to be something that should drive university policy. These are political choices in our society. They don't quite get to the level of institutional moral stand-taking, in my view."
Some Los Angeles Times reporters, evidently, feel differently. They've threatened to quit if the Koch brothers purchase the paper.