The News Media’s Comical Resistance to the Koch Brothers

kochsLast week, the New York Times reported that conservative businessmen, Charles and David Koch, are showing some interest in purchasing eight regional newspapers currently owned by the Tribune Company. They include the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel and Hartford Courant.

It didn’t take long for the story to spread fear among many liberals, including a number of journalists who quickly voiced their dismay.

Harold Meyerson from the Washington Post declared that the Kochs’ plan is to approach journalism as “a branch of right-wing ideology.”

David Sirota of Slate, who might still be getting over his disappointment that the Boston Marathon bombers weren’t white Americans, agrees. He wrote that the Kochs wish to “powerfully suffuse the entire news ecosystem with a hard-edged ideology.”

Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune has somewhat of a unique perspective, being that his paper is one of the ones being considered for purchase. Like the others, he doesn’t like the idea of a Koch takeover one bit. He’s worried that the brothers may use the publications as a “vehicle for their political voice.”

Why are these people so worried about the Kochs bringing an ideological slant to their industry? Well, the brothers have been very politically active over the years, pouring tens of millions of dollars into conservative causes including political campaigns. They’ve been very upfront about their crusade against big government, and their advocacy for pro-growth policies. Because of this, they are seen as influential, highly-controversial figures among the mainstream media. So, the thought of such people suddenly encroaching on the media’s turf arouses a lot of suspicion as to what their motivations are.

Now, I could try and argue that these critics’ concerns are petty and baseless, but the truth is that they may very well be right. It’s certainly possible that the Kochs’ interest in these news outlets is indeed part of a political agenda, and not merely a business opportunity. After all, the newspaper industry is in steep decline, which is why the Tribune Company is trying to unload these publications in the first place. Does it really make sense for savvy businessmen like the Kochs, who’ve never dabbled in the news media arena before, to suddenly delve into print-press at its weakest hour?

And if the Kochs did acquire these newspapers, would they have any interest at all in setting a tone of journalistic integrity within them? Maybe they really do just want to use those publications as a vehicle for their political voice, as Clarence Page put it.

If that’s the case, I have no problem saying that I share the concern of those liberal critics. A slanted, dishonest media is dangerous to a free society, after all. I just wish those critics had enough self-awareness to realize that the media environment they’re fretting over is exactly the one that they, themselves have already created and actively feed.

Our media is ideologically-driven, and it’s heavily biased. It’s been that way for a long time and the problem is only getting worse. Yet, the only time the mainstream media seems to have a problem with it is when the spin isn’t coming from their side of the ideological spectrum.

Liberal ideology rules the media. That’s a fact. A serious argument can’t even be made against the assertion anymore. All of the blatant double-standards, selective omissions, unbalanced commentary, calculated phrasing, and every other symptom of an industry living in a bubble of parroted thought has been exhaustively documented. More and more media insiders are freely conceding the point, and national polls routinely reveal that a strong majority of Americans see it as well.

The media has had every opportunity to self-correct the problem over the years by bringing discipline and diversity of thought to their newsrooms, but they have failed to do so. And because they feel so much disdain toward the relatively small conservative media (and the success it’s enjoyed), they’ve consciously pulled even further to the left in what they mutely rationalize as a type of counterbalance. Never mind how absurd that mindset is considering that liberals already dominate the industry.

This environment serves as a natural invitation for more ideological players to join the game that the establishment media has long been playing with little regard to the importance of the role they play in our society. Journalists who oppose the Kochs getting into the newspaper business may be convincing themselves that they’re just trying to protect the integrity of their profession, but what they’re really doing is the equivalent of taking their ball and going home.

If they truly want to stand up for the honor of their occupation, they should be taking a long, hard look at their colleagues and themselves.

Until that happens, the game will continue to be played, and the losers will continue to be an American public that is more misinformed now than at any other time in our country’s history.

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration (Computer Information Systems), and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. He is the author of the Sean Coleman Thriller series. His first novel, "From a Dead Sleep," is available at all major retailers. His second novel, "Blood Trade" is available for pre-order and will be released in Sept. 2015. John lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
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  • kelly

    The STL Post Dispatch editor is on the record saying, “we shape the news the way we see fit.” A story today about striking fast-food workers had all the information about the workers demands. It including zero information from management or information on how the situation would affect the consumer.

  • falcon7204

    I used to be a reporter. My goal was always to report the facts and let the viewers decide. But when I saw my fellow reporters resorting to the “some say” tactic to present their own opinion about a story, and when I heard conversation in the newsroom actively denigrating the very people to whom they were presenting the news (small town Texas), I got out. If the Koch brothers can begin to institute more fact-based reporting without the heavy dollop of ideology, I might become a news consumer again. But I am not holding my breath – a single candle may help light the darkness, but it gets blown out in a hurricane.

    • John Daly

      Thanks for your response. Yes, the “some say” and other straw man arguments have become an excuse to inject commentary into what should be hard news.

  • Red47

    Journalistic integrity? Journalism was a from of reporting the story, yes. But it has a looooong tradition of being used to effect public opinion.

  • Phil Silverman

    I guess that the Koch Brothers are not ideologically driven. nah. With their own front group, the Tea party. The fact that dear ol’ Dad was a founding member of the pro-Segregation John Birch Society. nah, no problem. That they raised about 600 million dollars for Romney. that they have paid hefty sums to Colleges across the country to CHANGE THE CURRICULUMS. No ideology there, either. That they fight for the right to dump toxic waste anywhere they want. But in THAT doesn’t matter if it’s a REPUBLICAN backyard!
    Oh yeah, but, but what about like Soros? Ok, say it, say it………..

    • John Daly

      Hey Phil,

      Do you actually read my columns, or do you just read the headline and try to guess what I’ve actually written?

      I wrote that the Kochs are conservative activists and that they may very well want to purchase newspapers to push an ideological agenda.

      Why are you acting as if I wrote exactly the opposite?

    • Mike Stokes

      Conservatives has as much right to promulgate their ideology as a liberal does.

      • plsilverman

        yes…and? :)

  • Tuci78

    I’d expect that the chief reason the Koch brothers would take over the Tribune Company is that they expect to use those assets to make money.

    Such a massive investment couldn’t be justified by any other intention, politics notwithstanding.

    “Liberal ideology rules the media. That’s a fact. A serious argument can’t even be made against the assertion anymore. All of the blatant double-standards, selective omissions, unbalanced commentary, calculated phrasing, and every other symptom of an industry living in a bubble of parroted thought has been exhaustively documented. More and more media insiders are freely conceding the point, and national polls routinely reveal that a strong majority of Americans see it as well.”

    Okay, so is the American marketplace ripe for news media no longer polluted by “Liberal” ideology?

    • John Daly

      Is the marketplace ripe? I really don’t know.

      Fox News has obviously done quite well by being the only major news network that doesn’t live in the bubble of what Andrew Breitbart used to refer to as “the liberal media complex.”

      Would others be as successful? Possibly.

      Personally, I just want a media that I can trust and respect. One that approaches stories using a single-standard.

      I want hard news to come without commentary, and commentary to be honest and smart. There’s not a lot of that in today’s media, though I’m finding it in places like Special Report and Fox News Sunday.

      • Tuci78

        “…I just want a media that I can trust and respect.”

        To pull a Firefly quote, “I’d like to be king of all Londinium and wear a shiny hat.” That’s not going to be gotten, either.

        I’d be content with media folk who consciously and overtly acknowledged their bigotries, and made no pretense at “nonpartisan” or “fair” or “balanced” approaches to what they report about goings-on in the world, or how they chose to do it.

        The news media are fundamentally participants in the entertainment industry. One way or another, their successes depend upon grabbing ears and eyeballs, and even if they don’t indulge their own prejudices, they do their very best to coddle the prejudices of the audiences they’re targeting.

        • John Daly

          Can’t disagree with any of that. I do, however, think someone can be entertaining while not being a charlatan.

          • Tuci78

            No argument with “entertaining while not being a charlatan.”

            It’s simply that the lictors of the media establishment are so incestuously “Liberal” that what they conceive to be “entertaining” is suited to their own tastes and quasi-Bolshevik worldview and – as is increasingly becoming manifest – not those of the viewers and readers their commercial sponsors want to reach.

            In those routes of distribution where access is not limited by government fiat – vide the ‘Net – the legacy news providers are finding themselves out-competed by “alternative media” services who are becoming less and less “alternative” with every passing year. Folks are finding their infotainment in ways that much distress the self-ordained arbiters of public knowledge.

  • genann59

    Very well said, Mr. Daly. I agree we need more actual diversity, not just in racial and ethnic and religious views, but in political viewpoints. Since the nation still tends to be center-right in orientation, perhaps the decline of the print media is, at least in part, because people know what they are going to read before they read it, because there is, for the most part, only one viewpoint being presented by the vast majority of journalists, print or broadcast media. People might want to read a newspaper if it were actually challenging as to what you might read, and not just parroted propaganda.

    • John Daly

      I think it’s a combination. Part of it is indeed a decline in print media as opposed to digital media. I can attest to this by the number of closed brick-and-mortar bookstores I’m coming across as I’m planning out a book tour this summer. But people rightfully don’t trust the news media these days either, so paying money for their news probably just isn’t as justifiable as it once was.

  • Paratisi

    A Slanted Dishonest NAZI Propaganda Ministry, is what we have NOW! A slant to the right on a few of these HATEFUL RAGS, with American Blood on their hands & heads, Would Be A MAJOR IMPROVEMENT in Actual Journalism, instead of the lourn-O-listers spewing their Left-Wing HATE & Bias against all that is good for America!

    God Bless America!

  • I Hate Fascists

    The Koch Bros can such my Koch

    • John Daly

      Kudos for now spewing racist rhetoric this time. Good job, man.

      • I Hate Fascists

        Racist???? What the fuck?????

      • Right wingers great white hope

        WTH was racist about that?

        • John Daly

          He dropped some Asian racial slurs in his comments to a previous column. It’s funny that he’s now acting like he doesn’t know what I’m referring to, considering that he didn’t bother to deny it the first time around.

          Oh well.

          • John Daly

            Ahhh, I see the confusion from earlier now (I meant to type “not spewing”, not “now spewing”. Sorry about that.

    • Juan Motie

      Okay, just another illiberal fascist with a bad case of Kochophobia! Idiots such as “i hate fascist” are the new American fascist and make it so easy to laugh at them!

      • Right wingers great white hope

        How is he fascist?

        • John Daly

          I’m not interested in labeling the guy, but in becoming familiar with his opinions over the past few months, it’s clear that his views are much closer to fascism than the views of any of the people he likes to argue with on this website.

          That’s why many of us find his screen name so amusing. It would be like Mel Gibson using the screen-name “I Hate Anti-semites”.

    • Paratisi

      Lol!If U Hate Fascists, STOP LOOKING IN THE MIRROR!

  • GlenFS

    Thanks for sharing the possibility, John. I would welcome this and would hope that their mission would be reporting the unbiased news. We’re not even close to this today.

    • John Daly

      Oh, I’d love that to be the case. If the Kochs moved forward and brought some integrity to the news media, that would be the best case scenario. Ironically, even if they played things down the middle, that alone would drag media coverage to the right.

      • genann59

        Wouldn’t it be nice for a change to harbor the thought that you might not have to take everything you read with a grain (or handful) of salt. Gosh, honesty, an almost forgotten attribute, how nice it would be if rediscovered. Like old Joe Friday used to say, Just the facts

        • John Daly

          Yes. There are a few reputable sources left, but not many.

  • JohnInMA

    Over the past days of seeing the ‘outrage’ from so many in the media about this rumor, one aspect seems more glaring to me. Their emotion is less a reaction to rich, conservative, and politically active ownership than it is a cry out about their industry that will continue losing customers and reputation within the public at large without some change. Polls show higher and higher distrust while those in the industry keep denying the root causes – bias being primary, and a steady erosion of investigation and analysis being a close second. Opinion has replaced “shoe leather” to the point where readers of many publications (most?) cannot easily distinguish between what is a news piece and what is an opinion piece. The news pieces have some facts, data, and non-opinion factoids scattered within them but still are more like opinion pieces. When it is obvious to a growing number of readers that the goal isn’t to form your own conclusion but to be drawn into one, the results are as expected. Readers bolt. Especially those who aren’t ideologically in sync. Even some of those in-sync are more fair-minded and perhaps drop interest/subscriptions, too.

    It’s not just that the Internet and 24/7 cable news of all slants, neutral or not, offers alternatives. It’s that the choices are growing. Competition increases. And like any other industry, the natural reaction is to rebuke the competition. The fact that the argument made against the potential Koch ownership hits at the core of the problem seen increasingly in polls (bias and lack of fact-based reporting), shows me they get it. But while they are unwilling to change, they are willing to project the problem onto others. It could be ideological. It ‘feels’ ideological. Regardless, it is a dying cry.

    • John Daly

      But if the primary concern is about the death of newspaper industry without change, I don’t think the media would be as hostile toward the Kochs’ interest.

      After all, the Kochs would undoubtedly bring change… and as the Wall Street Journal has proven, there are still some newspapers that can perform well if they distinguish themselves from the others.

      I think, for many in the media, it’s not about succeeding. Despite all of the loss in viewership and circulation, they don’t see a problem with the liberal media complex. Many even still think they’re impartial and fair when they’re clearly not.

      I absolutely agree with the rest of your post. Thanks for weighing in.

      • JohnInMA

        You may have a point given that the quickest to react are the most committed and loudest ‘journalists’ of the left. The hard core left. Given time maybe some of the more rational journalists will see and welcome the diversity. I don’t know.

        I just see a lot of signs from those who are outspokenly liberal as well as those who either fake it or try to be balanced. And it all points to resistance to change in spite of the eroding public image AND the dwindling of revenue. For the hard core progressives to agree bias is bad in justifying their position on the Koch rumor is also a sign that they understand the fundamental problem. Either Bernie is right and some/many just don’t see their bias given all of their routine personal associations and so they resist changing, or it is willful ignorance. Either way, they refuse to change.

        • cmacrider

          Always good to read your posts JohninMA

  • cmacrider

    John: When you recognize that people like Goldberg have been exposing and chastizing the media for its left wing bias for years … and then review Caddell’s blistering attack on the media … and then realized it has had little or no effect then possibly the only recourse is for the Right wing to develop their own media outlets. The fast & furious cover up and the Benghazi cover up are serious threats to a democracy. Maybe a little competition in the market place will ultimately restore the need for objective reporting.

    • John Daly

      Oh, I certainly believe that competition is a good thing. Given the current landscape, more conservatives entering the new media era to get their side of the story out is a good thing. It’s certainly preferable to a liberal monopoly.

      Ideally for the American people, however, the industry as a whole would examine itself and realize the responsibility they have in our society… then take measures to fix themselves.

      It unfortunately doesn’t appear that will ever happen.