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Time to Take Newspapers from Billionaires and Return Them to the People

'Free the Press' activist group tries to raise $660 million to buy Tribune newspapers and turn them over to local communities.

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Let’s talk about the media control and thought.

You have something going in the background, telling you a message, appealing to the worst side of you, your prejudices. Look back at the bombings in Boston. Immediately, almost everyone in the mainstream media super irresponsibly jumped to conclusions about who the bombers were and what their motivations were. People, because they’ve been exposed to media and this kind of scapegoating that’s happened for decades will be more prone to buy into the message. It’s because of the media, it’s because of the message that’s been circulated and ingrained in us. Even if we’re not aware of it, it’s a trap that’s running constantly. I don’t think it’s impossible to pay attention to something that’s so present. It’s everywhere.

Let’s say you’re successful and purchase the Tribune Company. What’s next? How would you keep these papers afloat? How would they remain competitive?

Just to be clear. We’re trying to buy the Tribune for the people. We don’t have much interest in actually owning it. We’d unleash the papers to report on whatever. Ideally, the papers would be crowd-sourced in some way on a local media. There are plenty of examples of public media. Look at the Pacifica network. That’s a publically funded radio station that works just find and covers important news. The Green Bay Packers uses a different model. They have a board and shareholders. There are definitely examples out there for how it can be done. It’s possible and there are options.

People have to buy into this no matter what. They know that CNN, MSNBC, Fox—they’re all owned by billionaires with agendas. Just knowing something is agendaless, reporting real news—that would speak for itself.

You guys have already raised more than $53,000 in a day (At time of publication, that number grew to more than $66,000).

It’s incredible. But seeing that amount of money and seeing so much of that bar left, it’s out of control. We’ve surpassed the average yearly salary of most Americans. We’ve made more money than that in one day and we’re still nowhere close. That, to me speaks that speaks volumes about how absurd this is.

What happens if you don’t meet the $660 million goal in 30 days?

We made the campaign fixed-funding, so if we don’t meet the goal, all the money goes back to the people it came from. We were really intentional about that, because we’re not trying to scam anyone or take people’s money for our own needs. We want to talk about the Tribune Company and we want to create a press.

Watch The Other 98%'s appeal:

Steven Hsieh is an editorial assistant at AlterNet and writer based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @stevenjhsieh.