New reports that the politically conservative Koch brothers are interested in buying the Tribune Company's eight regional newspapers -- which include the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune -- are sparking concerns from newspaper staff members that attempts to influence the editorial process in favor of their far-right political views may follow.
Among those concerned is Clarence Page, a top Chicago Tribune columnist, who said he would oppose a takeover of the paper by David and Charles Koch because of "the fact that they seem to be coming in upfront with the idea of using a major news media as a vehicle for their political voice."
In addition to the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, the Kochs are reportedly seeking to buy The Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel, the South Florida Sun Sentinel, The Hartford Courant (Hartford, CT), The Morning Call (Allentown, PA), and the Daily Press (Hampton Roads, VA).
The Kochs are major funders of the American conservative movement, funneling tens of millions of dollars every year to build a right-wing infrastructure geared toward reducing the size and impact of government. As the Times detailed, at a 2010 convention of like-minded political donors, the Kochs "laid out a three-pronged, 10-year strategy to shift the country toward a smaller government with less regulation and taxes." Part of the stratgy called for investing in the media.
And that has staffers at Tribune Company newspapers -- several of whom requested anonymity for fear of losing their jobs -- nervous about the possibility that a Koch takeover could bring with it an ideological focus on the news that risks turning the papers into what one reporter calls a "conservative mouthpiece."
According to those staffers, such concerns are rampant at the papers. "Nobody I know in the newsroom would find it a happy event to have the Koch brothers owning the paper," said one longtime Chicago Tribune staffer, who suggested that the purpose of the takeover is so that the brothers can use the publications to "promulgate their political views."
"I haven't heard anyone here who has welcomed the idea of the Koch brothers... the Koch brothers, that scares people," added an LA Times scribe.
"I think we all have concerns when you think an owner might try to influence editorial content," explained Angela Kuhl, Newspaper Guild unit chair at The Baltimore Sun. "That is sort of contrary to what the newspapering business should be about, free press. You don't necessarily want owners and publishers dictating content."
It's the Kochs' explicit call for investing in the media to achieve their political end that has Kuhl worried. "I read the story that said they have a three-pronged approach to how to move the country in the way they think it should head, and one is to influence the media."
Right-wing radio host Bill Cunningham is getting a nationally syndicated television show, the Chicago Tribune reported today. One is left to wonder how the Tribune Co., which will syndicate the show, thought it would be a good idea to broadcast Cunningham's caustic commentary on TV.
Cunningham is no radio powerhouse in the mold of Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, but what he lacks in audience size, he makes up for in sheer vitriol.
Vituperative remarks about President Obama are a staple of Cunningham's radio show. He has attacked Obama as a racist, alleged that the president wants to "gas the Jews," and invoked "six-six-six" and "the beast" in discussing "Barack Hussein Obama." He's adopted the rhetoric of birthers and even made racially charged remarks about Obama's father, stating, "That's what black fathers do. They simply leave."
The poor are also among Cunningham's favorite targets for attack: He has stated that they are impoverished "because they lack values, ethics, and morals," and advocated "beat[ing] the hell outta" homeless people with "a big old cane, Singapore-style."
This is the guy Tribune wants to put on TV five days a week?
In an article about President Obama's economic stimulus package, The Washington Times reported that Rep. John Boehner "called for 'fast-acting tax relief, not slow-moving government spending,' in a ... response to Mr. Obama's weekly address." But the Times did not note that Obama's stimulus package proposes several tax credits and that according to the director of the Office of Management and Budget, "at least 75 percent of the overall package ... will be spent over the next year and a half."
The Chicago Tribune's Mark Silva repeated Gov. Sarah Palin's claim that "the Obama-Biden Democrats have been vicious in their attacks directed toward ... my family," but gave no indication that he had challenged Republican aides to substantiate Palin's charge with examples of purported attacks. By contrast, while reporting the charge, NBC, ABC, and the AP all reported that when asked to provide examples of such attacks, Palin aides, the McCain campaign, and the RNC did not provide any.
In a blog post, the Chicago Tribune's Jill Zuckman wrote: "Asked by one of his supporters to provide a few examples where [Sen. Barack] Obama has reached across the aisle, [Sen. John] McCain -- not surprisingly -- was unable to come up with anything." But Zuckman did not note that McCain has previously thanked Obama for his bipartisan work on a bill with several Republicans, including McCain, and McCain's Senate office reportedly contacted Obama's office to cosponsor an update of that bill.
In reporting on the Democratic National Committee's ad highlighting Sen. John McCain's statement that the U.S. might be in Iraq for "a hundred" years, the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and the Tribune Co.'s Washington bureau all reported that McCain indicated that the extended involvement in Iraq that he was referring to would be similar to the presence the U.S. has had in South Korea. But they did not report that McCain has previously dismissed the idea of a Korea-like U.S. troop presence in Iraq.