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Major GOP Donor Gaining Monopoly Control Over Crucial Media Market

July 9, 2013

By Joe Strupp

The conservative Columbus Dispatch has long been a force in local and state politics in Ohio. But in recent years, the newspaper’s parent company has become a virtual media monopoly in Ohio’s largest city and state capital, controlling not only the daily newspaper, but two radio stations, a television outlet and a long list of other weekly, monthly, and regional news sources.

“It’s a one-newspaper town,” said Dominick Cappa, editor of Columbus Business First, one of the few local publications not owned by the Dispatch. “They have the TV station, a radio station. Are they powerful? Hell yeah they’re powerful because they have those outlets.”

And the Dispatch’s owners have used that media muscle to promote conservative causes and candidates, in particular the state’s Republican governor, John Kasich. Publisher John F. Wolfe, CEO of parent company Dispatch Printing, and his wife, Ann, have spent more than $100,000 seeking to elect Republicans in state and out, with three dollars out of every ten going to Kasich’s coffers.

The Dispatch’s news reporting is the pride of Ohio; in recent years the paper has repeatedly been named the best newspaper of its size by the Associated Press Society, and its reporters typically clean up at that organization’s annual awards presentation. In 2012, John Wolfe himself was given a special recognition award for “exemplary service to print journalism.”

But critics say that the recent expansion of Dispatch Printing has created a near-monopoly in central Ohio, and point to the way the paper’s editorial board has shielded Kasich to sound a note of alarm.

The increasing influence of the Wolfes comes during a period in which several right-wing moguls have been seeking to use mainstream media outlets to influence the political debate.

In December Media Matters profiled financier Douglas Manchester, a major Republican Party contributor who purchased the San Diego Union-Tribune and used it to cheerlead for right-wing politics and his own business interests. More recently, David and Charles Koch, major funders of the conservative movement, have reportedly considered buying the Tribune Company’s eight regional newspapers — which include the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune — as part of their plan to shift the country to the right by investing in the media. Manchester has also considered buying the Tribune Company.

The Kochs also financially support the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a non-profit organization whose websites and affiliates provide free statehouse reporting from a conservative perspective to local newspapers and other media across the country. Read the rest of the story at Media Matters.

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