Wednesday, May 29, 2013
We Can Not Trust the Koch's with our News. Guest Blog by Brad Ashwell
By Brad Ashwell, Common Cause Florida
The Tribune Company is currently considering the sale of eight newspapers, including the Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun-Sentinel to Charles and David Koch, two of the most politically controversial billionaires in the country. There is nothing particularly new or inherently wrong about a wealthy family owning a media company. But, the Koch brothers are not a typical wealthy family.
The Koch's have worked for years to benefit their bottom line at the expense of everyday Americans. They have donated millions to organizations and politicians that deny climate change, attack campaign-spending limits, dismantle worker’s rights, promote discriminatory voter ID laws, restrict access to health care, and increase income inequality. They have aggressively pushed a radical and extremist partisan political agenda by bankrolling think tanks, advocacy organizations, shadowy groups like ALEC (The American Legislative Exchange Council), astroturf groups and educational institutions. What seems particularly troubling is that many of their efforts have involved shaping public opinion on issues in a way that lacks transparency in order to benefit their own economic interests. But the issue at hand is not whether we agree with the Koch brothers stances on issues. The question is really whether we can trust them?
Can we trust these ultra-partisan ideologues to be good public stewards when it comes to providing us with objective news? Will they respect a firewall between owners and the newsroom? Will editors and reporters feel free to hold power in all its forms accountable even if goes against the economic interests of the Koch's? Will there be self-censorship in the newsroom due to the fear of retribution as there recently was at a PBS affiliate who declined to air a documentary critical of the Koch's because they are major funders?
Newspapers still play a critical role in the informational ecosystem of a community. This is why some media ownership limits already exist. Many get their news from television and increasingly from internet sources but much of the heavy lifting is still done by print newspaper reporters when it comes to investigative journalism. They serve to inform the electorate, expose corruption and are an essential community resource when it comes to holding power accountable.
We don't have to look that far to see how this plays out. We already know what happens to news coverage when the ideology of an owner is placed over informing the public. This sale is likely to create another Rupert Murdoch scenario, and make papers like the Sentinels, the LA Times and Chicago Tribune look more like Fox News. The public needs more news that holds power accountable not more extremist propaganda machines.
Millions of Americans rely on the news outlets currently operated by the Tribune Company to provide them with accurate, unbiased information about pressing issues in their communities and around the world. Ownership by two of the most influential and radical right wing ideologues in the country will skew trusted news sources to further their interests and debase our Democracy.
The public needs news they can trust not extremist agendas. The sale of newspapers to the Koch brothers, or any other party so clearly driven by ideology, is antithetical to the public interest. Common Cause Florida is urging the Tribune company to not sell their papers to the Koch brothers.