In a brief, lo-fi video posted this morning on YouTube, TV auteur David Simon -- creator of HBO's "The Wire" and "Treme" -- sounds off on what he sees as the Wall Street-driven failure of American newspaper journalism and the prospect of the controversial billionaire Koch Brothers controlling key U.S. newspapers. Scroll down below the video for more context.
Simon is, famously, a former newspaperman -- he was a police reporter at Tribune Co.'s Baltimore Sun (his time there was the inspiration for "The Wire"). In this clip, posted by a (tiny) political party called Working Families, he urges viewers to sign a petition addressed to The Tribune Company ("Tribune Company: Don't sell your newspapers to the Koch brothers -- support the local ownership of American news organizations").
The timing here seems a little off because Tribune recently announced its plans to spin off its publishing division, including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun. That presumably means that Tribune can, at least on the surface of things, avoid the controversy of selling to anyone in particular -- like the Koch Brothers.
But Working Families seems concerned that Tribune is just kicking the can a short way down the road. In April, The New York Times' Amy Chozick, in an article titled "Conservative Koch Brothers Turning Focus to Newspapers," reported that the billionaire industrialists' expressed interest in the Tribune Co. papers was part of a "three-pronged, 10-year strategy to shift the country toward a smaller government with less regulation and taxes" -- with the third prong being controlling media through media investments.
As it stands, it could take Tribune up to a year to prepare and execute on its spin-off plans, at which point shares in the new newspaper company would likely be distributed to existing Tribune Co. shareholders -- who could then, of course, turn around and sell them to the Koch Brothers.
Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.