My Newest Nightmare
David Horsey reminds me of something I have been conveniently ignoring: the sale of the Tribune properties, including the Los Angeles Times.
The people of Los Angeles would be up in arms if some out-of-town billionaires tried to buy the Dodgers and institute a rule that only right-handers could play on the team. Petitions would be signed, protests would be organized and politicians would rise up to condemn the sale. It would be nice if there were a similar outcry at the prospect of the Koch brothers buying the Los Angeles Times.
After all, as exciting as it may be for a city to have a major league sports team, a good newspaper is a far more valuable asset. Even in these tough days for the journalism business, newspapers remain the core providers of comprehensive news coverage in every town that still has one. Sure, there are local television stations. They are great if all you need to know about is crime, weather and traffic. There’s the Internet, if you are free to spend your day surfing for bits of information that may or may not be true. But the providers of America’s bedrock news reporting are still newspaper journalists.
Newspapers continue to provide most of the comprehensive coverage of government, business and society at large that is essential to democracy. It would seem like a terrible idea to turn that function over to rich industrialists seeking a megaphone for their self-serving political views, but that very well may happen, not only in L.A., but in Chicago, Baltimore and the several other American cities with newspapers owned by the Tribune Co. ...
That is where David and Charles Koch come in. The brothers own Koch Industries, a Kansas-based energy and manufacturing conglomerate that rakes in $115 billion annually. That’s the money to burn. And the motivation? Right-wing ideology. The Kochs hate government regulation and taxes and they love tea party Republicans. Over the years, they have dumped millions of dollars into think tanks, magazines, political action committees, candidates and attack ads – all of them staunchly conservative.
Having fallen short of their objective of crushing Democrats and liberalism, they now apparently believe a necessary component in their strategy is ownership of a few major newspapers. It is doubtful they want to merely have a voice on the editorial pages, as has always been a publisher’s prerogative. It is far more likely they hope to create print versions of Fox News. [Emphasis added]
It was bad enough when Rupert Murdoch showed interest in buying the bankrupt Tribune Co, but having the Koch Brothers in the bidding war just makes it worse.
Does this mean we can expect Southern California to go all conservative? Of course not, but it does mean the end to easy access to the Times Washington Bureau, its political reporters (who do a pretty decent job), and (worst of all) David Horsey and Ted Rall. We'll have Jonah Goldberg 8 days a week, and ALEC blast faxes rather than news.
And I'm not quite sure what we can do about it.