Show of hands: Half of staffers at L.A. Times say they would quit if Koch brothers buy the paper
When Rupert Murdoch, whose company now owns Fox News, purchased the Chicago Sun-Times in 1984, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Mike Royko quit the paper and jumped to the Chicago Tribune.
Royko said: “No self-respecting fish would want to be wrapped in a Murdoch paper…[H]is goal is not quality journalism. His goal is vast political power for Rupert Murdoch.”
I’m reminded of that story by THIS REACTION to rumors that right-wing libertarian brothers Charles and David Koch might buy a group of newspaper that includes the Los Angeles Times:
At a Los Angeles Times in-house awards ceremony a week ago, columnist Steve Lopez addressed the elephant in the room.
Speaking to the entire staff, he said, “Raise your hand if you would quit if the paper was bought by Austin Beutner’s group.” No one raised their hands.
“Raise you hand if you would quit if the paper was bought by Rupert Murdoch.” A few people raised their hands.
Facing the elephant trunk-on, “Raise your hand if you would quit if the paper was bought by the Koch brothers.” About half the staff raised their hands.
Current owner of the LA Times, Sam Zell, has been painted as the devil incarnate for slashing the editorial staff and for his vulgar demeanor.
But at least, editorially, he’s stayed out of the reporters’ business. There hasn’t been propaganda reporting, and there aren’t topics that are off-limits to the staff, according to a few Times reporters. The editorial page, definitely leaning left but not afraid, for example, to chastise unions, hasn’t changed much since Zell bought the Tribune Co., owner of the newspaper and eight others, in 2007.
That may not be the case under the paper’s future leadership, even if the group favored by the staff and readers takes over…
The ownership that most Angelenos seem to favor is a coalition of LA billionaires who have expressed interest, led by former Democratic mayoral candidate Austin Beutner and including prominent Democratic donor Eli Broad.
It is likely that the Beutner coalition sees an LA Times purchase not just as a business investment, but as a local vanity project and perhaps an occasional outlet for their own interests. That’s generally how it goes with newspaper owners.
That may not be wonderful, but it’s far better that than what the Koch brothers would likely turn the Times into — namely, a national bullhorn for conservative causes like lowering taxes and lessening regulation. At a conservative conference in Aspen, Colo., three years ago, the brothers said their 10-year political plan includes using the media to advocate for smaller government.