Selling Out Freedom

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The Freedom Communications chain of newspapers (and other media properties) plans a huge step that will endanger the long-term prospects of the Hoiles family keeping operational control–which will probably mean an attenuation of the chain's historic adherence to a largely libertarian editorial philosophy. The Los Angeles Times reports today on a plan to sell most of the company to a new holding company such that, if family members end up selling more than 70 percent of the stock, two investment companies in on the deal would obtain voting control. (The restructuring details are complicated–consult the whole story if that sort of thing excites you.)

The founder of the chain was R.C. Hoiles, whose libertarianism was so staunch he famously came out against internment of the Japanese in his flagship paper, now known as the Orange County Register, then still the Santa Ana Register. This position, conventional wisdom now, was a daring one in southern California during World War II. Hoiles tried to keep a libertarian line on all his company's papers, giving, for example, his first newspaper job at the Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph to libertarian lecturer and Freedom School (later Rampart College) founder Robert LeFevre, a significant libertarian influence in the 1960s (and the inspiration for Bernado La Paz in Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress).

The company, and its guiding philosophy, stayed in the family for generations, but all such dynasties come to an eventual end. It is impossible for one man's vision, no matter how powerful, to dominate his family generations down the line. (Ask Henry Ford and J. Howard Pew and John D. MacArthur what they would think of the foundations that bear their name today.) Though today's announced move would not be an immediate abandonment of the company by the family, it clearly sets the groundwork for an eventual one. (For more nitty-gritty on the family squabbles that led to this, see this copy of an archived New York Times story from August 19.)

NEXT: "...and a copy of Happy Scrappy: The Hero Pup"

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  1. What? Do they owe some duty stay in the business or something? A duty to a man long dead? Where is the “freedom” in that?

  2. Re: Henry Ford – I am sure that he would be pissed that his organization gives money to the Anti-Defamation League; anti-semetic prick that he was.

  3. Ah, what memories this evokes. I worked for a family chain of small-town newspapers for almost a decade. Printer’s ink flowed in the veins of the founder and his son. Regardless of financial loss, both believed that small communities should have a local paper in which local voices could be heard.

    But by the third generation, the heirs began to hear the siren’s call of the dollar and sold the chain to a “media holding company”, whose only media holding was 120 Spanish-language radio stations. The bottom line ruled the day, and a few years later, half of the chain’s weeklies had folded and some of its dailies were trimmed back to weeklies.

    Much was due to the evolution of media and advertising revenue over the past quarter century, but much was also due to people running newspapers not with passion, but with a spreadsheet.

  4. Tom From Texas,

    It deserved to die.

  5. I’m wondering if the OC Register will now adopt the prevailing liberal slant that dominates editorial pages across America? I think so.

    Gone forever will be the wisdom of Thomas Sowell and Walter E. Williams and in will come the vitriolic ignorance of Tom Friedman and Paul Krugman. My subscription has already been cancelled.

  6. I read the Colorado Springs Gazette every day. The editorial section (Our View) written by the paper’s editors is spot on excellent 99% of the time. Regularly criticizing the War on Drugs, and admonishing the idiots in Washington that would trade esential liberty for the illusion of security. That said, the author’s they choose for the rest of the Gazette’s op/ed section are often social conservative authoritarians who in my opinion are just as much a threat to freedom as the “we need another government program, PC-Police,” types.

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