The Los Angeles Times needs a new owner, but the people looking to buy may spell disaster for the city’s largest newspaper.
Following more than 100 years as a family-run business, the Times joined Tribune media group in 2000, and since then, the daily has faced new ownership (Sam Zell purchased Tribune in 2007) and bankruptcy. The paper emerged from catastrophic debt in 2011 thanks to JPMorgan Chase and two hedge funds, and now rumor has it that Tribune is looking to sell the Times along with the seven other daily newspapers they own for the price of $1 billion.
Unfortunately, few businessmen are able or willing to spend that kind of money in today’s declining newspaper market. Which leads us to the Koch brothers. Owners of Koch Industries, the second-largest privately-owned company in the United States, the pair is best known for the millions of dollars that they spend on conservative and libertarian political candidates by the way of funding attack ads and political action committees. Is it conceivable that the brothers could own the Times without imprinting the paper with their own ideology? Unfortunately, not really. The Kochs openly stated at a conservative conference in Aspen, Colorado, three years ago that their 10-year political plan included using the media to advocate their beliefs. With that kind of political pressure on the paper, Los Angeles would lose the journalistic endeavor a city of our size and importance deserves and needs.
Unsurprisingly, employees have been outspoken about the possibility of a Koch-owned Times. The Huffington Post Los Angeles reported Tuesday that about half of the Times’ staff would decide to quit rather than work for a politically biased newspaper. What alternative scenarios exist? Last month rumors circulated that billionaire investor Eli Broad and former L.A. Deputy Mayor Austin Buetner were also interested in purchasing the paper, and possibly with help from additional investors. Bids—and the future of the Times—are said to be pending.