Last 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.
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