L.A. city council member: ‘End of journalism’ if Koch brothers buy L.A. Times

Politics,Beltway Confidential,Michal Conger,California

A Los Angeles city councilman predicts a journalistic apocalypse if a couple of libertarian billionaires from Kansas buy the local daily newspaper.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl said in an official motion on Tuesday the Los Angeles should pull city employee and retiree pension money from the investment firms that own the Times if the Charles and David Koch buy the paper.

“Frankly what I hear about the Koch brothers, if it’s true, it’s the end of journalism,’’ said Rosendahl, a former broadcaster, according to the Times.

He said his proposal was prompted by rumors that Charles and David Koch may buy newspapers owned by Tribune, Co., including the Times.

“I don’t want to see Los Angeles, the second-largest city and the biggest region in the nation, not to have a quality newspaper,” he said.

The motion, supported by two other members of the 15-member council, states that the council only supports a buyer that shows “the highest terms of professional and objective journalism” — implying the Koch brothers would steer the paper in a biased direction. His motion did not provide a definition of journalism he would approve or specify who in city government would certify acceptable and non-acceptable journalism and journalists.

“We cannot support the sale of the Times to entities who Times readers would view as a political transaction first and foremost, turning L.A.’s metropolitan daily into an ideological mouthpiece whose commitment to empirical journalism would be unproven at best,” the motion reads, according to the Times. “A newspaper isn’t just a business, it’s also a civic trust.”

The motion will be considered in the coming weeks first by a budget committee, then by the full council.

The staff of the Times seems to share Rosendahl’s fears. At an in-house awards ceremony last week, about half the people in the room raised their hands when columnist Steve Lopez asked whether they would leave if the Koch brothers bought the paper, according to the Huffington Post.

A 2008 PEW survey found four times more journalists identified as liberal than conservative.

“Raise your hand if you would quit if the paper was bought by Austin Beutner’s group,” Lopez said. No one raised their hands.

“Raise your hand if you would quit if the paper was bought by Rupert Murdoch,” he said next, and a few staffers raised their hands. Beutner is an investment banker and former Los Angeles deputy mayor.

“Raise your hand if you would quit if the paper was bought by the Koch brothers,” he said finally, and about half the staff raised their hands, according to the Huffington Post.

Tribune Co. owns eight newspapers, including the Baltimore Sun and the Chicago Tribune, as well as 23 broadcasting companies. Several people are reportedly weighing a bid. Beutner, currently a Los Angeles mayoral candidate, has partnered with Democratic donor Eli Broad to make an offer. Both are major figures in Los Angeles politics, according to LA Weekly.

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