Tuesday, April 3, 2007

"Whew!! That was close." - Yesterday's sale of Tribune Co. to billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell represents a new chapter in the storied history of one of America's original newspaper companies. With holdings in radio, television, on-line and print media (to include the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and The Baltimore Sun), Tribune Co. is a well-diversified media conglomerate, and certainly represented a much-sought after prize for billionaires with money burning a hole in their Swiss bank accounts. As reported in the Tribune, Tribune Co. was in the sights of Zell and a pair of west coast billionaires, Eli Broad and Ron Burkle, both of whom thought Tribune Co. "too parochial to be the steward of the Los Angeles Times."

To be sure, with Zell's successful purchase of Tribune Co., longtime readers of the Tribune have dodged a bullet of sorts. We needn't worry that another Chicago icon will go by the wayside.

Zell's local roots play in his favor, especially in a city such as Chicago where its biggest bank is now headquartered in New York and the hometown department store has been renamed Macy's, civic leaders say. Zell grew up in Chicago and returned here to build his estimated $5.5 billion fortune, which has run the gamut from real estate to shipping containers to bicycles.
But just as important for those of us who favor some sort of balanced reporting from the mainstream media, Zell's ownership of the Tribune consortium represents that much more of a chance that such will remain the case (or more correctly, that the abundant liberal media bias will be less blatant.) Part of the reason why Tribune Co. favored the Zell offer over the one presented by Messrs. Burkle and Broad was the Tribune board's concern that Burkle and Broad wouldn't confirm that "they had no plans to inject themselves into the editorial process." Indeed, there is no doubt that Ron Burkle - a confidant of (and bagman for) Bill and Hillary Clinton - would not have flexed every editorial muscle to bend the reporting of the L.A. Times, the Tribune and the other Tribune Co. papers in the service of Clinton and Clinton leading up to the 2008 presidential elections and beyond.

To be sure, it is often the lot of conservatives that we must enjoy small victories. Seeing a national newspaper chain avoid becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary of Clinton, Inc. is an unexpected blessing much to be savored.

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