apoplectic at the thought of Charles and David Koch buying the eight newspapers of the Tribune Co.? Nope!Are all journalists, or at least all former L.A. Times employees,
Over at Zócalo Public Square, former Timesman Joe Mathews writes a potentially friendship-straining piece titled "I Hope the Kochs Buy the Times." Excerpt:
To be vital, papers must do more than serve a community; they must engage it. Papers should have public faces and publish things that the public loves—or loves to hate. Unfortunately, most American newspapers today are owned by little-known rich people or faceless corporations, and it's rare that papers do things that people love or hate. The L.A. Times, while still among the best in the country, suffers from this same malady: It's unthreatening and predictable.
Enter the Kochs. Simply by expressing interest in buying the Times, the billionaire brothers have made the paper a topic of conversation and community concern in a way that the paper's own content can't match. If just the possibility of Koch ownership has prompted so much talk about how to protect the paper as a community enterprise, just imagine if the Kochs actually bought it. [...]
Indeed, you could make the case that the Kochs would be the best owners the Times has ever had. The Chandler family, with the important exceptions of Otis and his mother Buffy, was more right-wing, and far less public-spirited, than the Kochs. The Tribune Company, which came next, presided over a decimation of the paper. Sam Zell, the most recent owner, piled up so much debt in buying the Tribune that his purchase effectively bankrupted the company. The Kochs, for all their sins, are by all accounts philanthropic, skilled as businessmen, and rich enough (each has a net worth of over $30 billion) to invest in the paper.
Do read all the way down to the Hiram Johnson quote.
When billionaire investment guru Warren Buffett forked over $142 million to purchase 63 newspapers last year, most other newspapers didn't take much notice. Buffett's decision seemed backward-looking but deserving of praise: to us journalists, anyone rich and reckless enough to assume the cost of operating a newspaper in this grim media environment was worth celebrating.
But absent from the scattered coverage of the Buffett mega-purchase was the usual finger-wagging and moralizing about media concentration and the potential dangers of a politically engaged owner interfering in his newspapers' political coverage. Odd because Buffett is a political guy. He hosts fundraisers for President Obama, pens opinion pieces for The New York Times advocating a more progressive tax code (the so-called Buffett Rule, which the administration adopted in 2011), and pops up on Sunday political chat shows to expound on gridlocked Washington. [...]
But it's not about journalism. It's about heretical politics. [...]
There was quite a bit of excitement amongst my fellow journalists—which I shared—when Al Jazeera announced that it was opening shop in the United States, creating quite a few jobs in the process. None objected to the politics of its owners, the government of Qatar, whose record on democracy, environmentalism, human rights, and free speech leaves much to be desired. And as Human Rights Watch has pointed out, the station rarely reports at all on Qatar, much less reports critically.
But here's the good news. All those principled Los Angeles Times journalists who threatened to resign if those dreadful libertarians hijack their newspaper now have a more ethical alternative: the Qatari sheikhs are still hiring.
Reason on Charles and David Koch, the latter of whom sits on the Reason Foundation's Board of Trustees, here.