Friday, January 3, 2014

Waxman and the LA Times

“Your time was up, Mr. Waxman!” – Rep Ed Whitfield (R-Kentucky)

Congressman Henry Waxman announced concerns about the Los Angeles Times last month, and the Tribune Company agreed to meet with him to discuss long-term plans to salvage the sinking media conglomerate. Because of bankruptcy restructuring, the Tribune Co. will spin off the newspaper portions into a separate company, Tribune Publishing.

In a letter to the Tribune’s chief executive, Waxman wrote:

"I am concerned that corporate actions the Tribune Co. is taking may not be in the best interests of the Los Angeles Times.”

The report continued:

Waxman said the company’s placing the newspaper unit into debt to pay a cash dividend to Tribune will "undoubtedly enrich the Tribune Co., but it may do so at the expense of the financial health of the Los Angeles Times and the other papers in the newspaper unit, all of which are already facing financial strains."

How did the paper end up in such dire straits? In late 2008, the Los Angeles Times acknowledged that the paper’s owner, Tribune Co., filed for bankruptcy. The article admitted that plunging advertisement revenue featured in the paper’s fiscal problems. Of course, the $12.9 billion debt load is nothing to sneeze at, either. Where did all the debt come from? According to earlier reports, declining revenue for the newspaper industry as a whole.

Still, why does Waxman want to save the LA Times? The paper is one of the most reliable, howbeit hardly viable, liberal mouthpieces in the greater Los Angeles area, of course. The unrepentant liberal bias of this publication cannot be ignored, including its frequent articles and editorial which hammered Kevin James, the socially liberal, fiscally conservative Republican candidate for LA mayor in 2013. The Times editorial board called the California billion dollar bullet train boondoggle a “worthy gamble”, even though the costs have tripled, and one poll registered that 52% of California residents want the bullet train project stopped (plus frequent endorsements for liberal, Democratic candidates).

Above all, one may assume that Waxman’s efforts to save the LA Times rest primarily on the paper’s promotion of the failing and decrepit Affordable Care Act, a piece of legislation, a monstrous one at that, which has forced the closure of clinics, along with pushing doctors into earlier retirement, along with the glitches unending.

Consider the following headlines over the past few years touting the Affordable Care Act:

Seeing the positive changes brought by the healthcare law

Obamacare health plan enrollments rise sharply in December

White House issue new tip sheet for Obamacare consumers

The umpteenth Obamacare fix

In the above column, the Times editorial board offered up the impression that the Affordable Care Act was not a matter of hubris, but a necessary government action. The same government which was supposed to insure the uninsured has not uninsured the insured, with millions more still unable to access affordable health insurance.

Some other LA Times headlines on Obamacare:

Last-minute surge of health law sign-ups

California health exchange tops 400,000 enrolled prior to deadline

Other news sites, including Breitbart as well as local, conservative, and national affiliates throughout the country have reported the rising number of health insurance recipients losing their health insurance, or finding that premiums are rising beyond their  capacity to pay. Other reports share that millions of Americans will just pay the fine rather than get health care.
Further down in the article on the fate of the LA Times, the paper offered one of the most leading statements:

“In an interview, Waxman wouldn’t say what actions, if any, Congress could take.”
What can Congress do for the LA Times? Offer a bailout? Tribune Co., like many newspaper industries, has not shifted effectively with the rapid technological advances. Of course, the untrammeled bias of the paper has likely turned off potential readers, too. Diverse studies confirm the left-leaning elements within the LA Times.

Yet returning to the idea that Congressman Waxman could, or even should, do something to resurrect the LA Times. Congress getting involved in the content and dissemination of media? Such tinkering from the state in the media has happened before, with disastrous results for the Fourth Estate keeping the three branches of government accountable in our country.

The last thing that any Congressman should be considering is laws which will bolster the press. Do we really want journalists and their corporate leaders taking money from Washington? One can only imagine the distortion of current events and news reporting which would follow.

Granted, picketers lined up to protest the Koch Brothers potential purchase of Tribune Co, including unions, and half the Times’ staff pledged to resign should they take over. Then again, if the libertarian-leaning conservatism of the Kansas oil magnates could bring in more readers and greater revenue, working and middle-class employees connected with the Times should not be so hasty to reject the offer. Ultimately, the Koch Brothers’ decided against purchasing Tribune Co., citing that such a venture would “not be profitable”.

Much like the Affordable Care Act, and certainly any moves from the federal government to rescue the LA Times.

No comments:

Post a Comment