Friday, May 17, 2013


Will the Los Angeles Times be sold to the Koch Brothers?

The most distressing piece of news I've seen lately is that the Los Angeles Times may be sold to the Koch Brothers.  The Brothers Koch use part of their vast fortune to fund cultural and political activities that they like.  I've noticed that many of my favorite television programs on public television have, as one of their supporters or sponsors, the Koch Brothers.  I enjoy the programs and I do not fault the Brothers Koch for their support.

The Koch Brothers also fund political activity that I oppose.  They support Karl Rove's political machinations in support of ultra-conservative Republican candidates and in trying to discredit or smear promising Democratic candidates.  Part of the money being spent on inflating the Benghazi disaster as a means of discrediting the potential 2016 Presidential candidacy of Hillary R. Clinton comes from the Koch Brothers.  I happen to believe that Mrs. Clinton would be a fine President and I hope she gets the chance to prove it.

I can't believe that the Koch Brothers view the LA Times as something like a PBS program on the life of the gray whale.  I can and do believe that they view it as a propaganda tool.  The Times at present has a rather "liberal" or progressive editorial policy.  A Koch ownership would change that.  The Times would become an echo of Fox News.

In my experience as a subscriber to the newspaper, the Los Angeles Times has covered and published important news stories that other important newspapers, such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have not.  An example was my puzzlement in 1961 when the new President, John Kennedy, said he had known nothing about the training camps in Guatemala where Cuban exiles had trained in preparation of the landing on Cuba to depose Fidel Castro.  I was puzzled because I had been reading about them for months in the LA Times  and The Nation magazine.  I couldn't understand how Kennedy had missed these stories until I learned that the only two publications that printed the stories were the LA Times and The Nation.  Kennedy obviously didn't read either one.

I know that the free market in buying and selling newspapers may well determine that the Brothers Koch will acquire ownership and control of my newspaper.  The only way to stop the transaction is for someone to offer a higher price than the Koch Brothers are willing to pay.  The present owner of the LA Times is the owner of the Chicago Tribune.  He has no interest in news.  He bought the Tribune company to make money.  His approach was to apply the same discipline that works on many large corporations: make them leaner and more efficient and get rid of those activities that do not bring in any revenue.  That is, boost advertising and reduce news gathering staff.  Unfortunately, this discipline does not produce a profitable newspaper, but rather a dying one.  Without news stories, potential readers have no interest in buying and reading the newspaper.  As a result, advertisers have no interest in paying for ads in the paper.

Successful newspapers are operated by managers who are quite happy to accept the rate of return on investment that a newspaper provides,.  Many successful newspapers are owned by families that take pride in them.  The Los Angeles Times was successful for many years under the ownership of the Otis and Chandler families in Los Angeles.  One day the family decided that they were no longer interested in owning a newspaper.  The paper was sold to the Chicago Tribune.  This was a rather unlikely move, in that the Times had more readers than the Tribune.  Subsequently the parent company of these newspapers declared bankruptcy.  The present owner is interested in selling off the assets of the company for whatever he can get.  If the Brothers Koch make a suitable offer, the paper is theirs to do with what they will.  I wish I could stop it, but I'm not billionaire.
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