Over the past few weeks, there have been rumblings of a potential buyer for the Tribune newspaper company, which owns the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, and a few other notable papers. Given the desperate financial straits of the Tribune Company, this should be good news for journalists who believe in the importance of print media, or are at the very least worried about their jobs.
Unless, as is the case here, the potential buyers happen to be the Koch brothers, David and Charles, billionaire philanthropists who have spent the last few years being unfairly maligned by the mainstream press, thanks to their patronage of libertarian and right-of-center causes. The Huffington Post reports that Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez asked at a recent awards ceremony held at the Times for a show of hands “if you would quit if the paper was bought by the Koch brothers.” Half the Times staffers reportedly raised their hands. While this is supposed to be a chilling anecdote, The Scrapbook wonders—wouldn’t knowing they could easily clear out all of the staff reflexively opposed to them be an incentive for the Kochs to buy the paper?
Of course, when Hollywood mogul David Geffen was rumored as a potential purchaser of the Times a while back, there was absolutely no objection heard from the newsroom there, despite Geffen’s left-wing politics and track record of throwing millions at liberal causes. And lest you think this hypocrisy is confined to the Times newsroom, the Newspaper Guild & Communications Workers of America also issued a statement:
We understand why the Kochs breed this distrust. They are active political proponents of harsh right-wing positions. We’re also not certain that Tribune will listen to anything but money when the final decision is made. . . . We call on Tribune to make a pledge that they’ll only sell to a buyer that will protect the objectivity of the news product by making a public commitment to doing so.
Harsh right-wing positions? The libertarian Koch brothers aren’t nearly as right-wing as they’re made out to be. But the left has whipped up a frenzy against them in recent years, no doubt hoping to discourage deep-pocketed donors to causes not helpful to their hero in the White House. So Los Angeles city council members, eager to join the anti-Koch posse, called on the city to withdraw its pension fund investments in the Tribune Company if the papers were sold to the Kochs. “Frankly, what I hear about the Koch brothers, if it’s true, it’s the end of journalism,’’ said city council member Bill Rosendahl.
The Scrapbook is further intrigued that it’s apparently not a problem for the staff of the Los Angeles Times that the city government it’s supposed to report on is not only invested in the paper but willing to use its purse strings to prevent the paper from doing something it doesn’t like.
We conclude that councilman Rosendahl is half right—the end of journalism is nigh, but not because of the Koch brothers. Journalism is dying because reporters and editors put themselves at the service of liberal politicians like Rosendahl a long time ago.
If the Koch brothers were to buy the Los Angeles Times and get half the staff to quit and the city government to divest its pension funds from the paper in the process, we’re prepared to amend our judgment—that would show that the enterprise still has a healthy future.