The billionaire Koch brothers have a massive imprint, from energy to forest products to multi-tentacled political front groups including the likes of Americans for Prosperity, important in the Republican takeover of the Arkansas legislature.
It ain't enough.
Now they want to control the messengers, too.
NY Times reports on their interest in buying major newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel and Los Angeles Times.
As in most things, for people with the Kochs' money, I'd note that Arkansas could be bought cheaply. A good offer to Walter Hussman and Warren Stephens and, in a twinkling, the Kochs would control the editorial voice of most of the daily newspaper circulation in Arkansas. I hasten to add that's not on the table. Yet anyway.
The Times observes on the Kochs' interest in the Tribune newspapers:
The papers, valued at roughly $623 million, would be a financially diminutive deal for Koch Industries, the energy and manufacturing conglomerate based in Wichita, Kan., with annual revenue of about $115 billion.
Politically, however, the papers could serve as a broader platform for the Kochs’ laissez-faire ideas. The Los Angeles Times is the fourth-largest paper in the country, and The Tribune is No. 9, and others are in several battleground states, including two of the largest newspapers in Florida, The Orlando Sentinel and The Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. A deal could include Hoy, the second-largest Spanish-language daily newspaper, which speaks to the pivotal Hispanic demographic.
One person who attended the Aspen seminar who spoke on the condition of anonymity described the strategy as follows: “It was never ‘How do we destroy the other side?’ ”
“It was ‘How do we make sure our voice is being heard?’ ”
Also: How do you make sure there are no other voices, or voices so weak they can be easily outshouted by a conglomerate of legislative lobbyists, political pressure groups and dominant news media.
Nice plug in Politico for the Times' David Ramsey's coverage of the unfolding Medicaid expansion debate in Arkansas:
— ARKANSAS REPORTER MIXES IT UP WITH FORBES COLUMNIST OVER EXPANSION — David Ramsey, whose reporting for the Arkansas Times on his state’s unusual Medicaid expansion approach set the tone of a national conversation, shredded Forbes’s Avik Roy yesterday, contending the columnist ignored important facts on the subject. Roy used a column yesterday to disparage the deal Arkansas is working on — namely to take Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion dollars but use them to buy private coverage through the state’s insurance exchange. Roy called the arrangement a bad deal in part because Medicaid patients are supposed to have access to “any willing provider” of medical services, regardless of cost. But Ramsey reported that Arkansas’s version of expansion wouldn’t be subject to the “any willing provider” rule and would still engender competition on the state exchange. The Roy column:
A short statement from Alice 107.7 morning show host DC McGhee (whose real name is Willard Moran), was posted on the Alice 107.7 Facebook page last night. Moran was reported missing last Friday morning after he didn't come to work, sparking a wide search around his house and much fretting by fans of the popular show. He was later found sleeping in his own attic. He hasn't appeared on the morning show since.
"To my family, my friends and fans of Alice 107.7. After the events of last Friday, I have decided to seek treatment for certain personal and medical issues that I have been dealing with for some time. While I regret being away from the show during this time, I look forward to getting back to work in the near future. I appreciate your support during this difficult time.
Much Love, DC"
The message reminds us of another beloved local radio personality who has been through his own share of troubles of late.
Family members reportedly became concerned, and went to McGhee's house. His car was found there, but he was nowhere to be found. The Lonoke County Sheriff's Office is investigating the disappearance as a missing person's case, and is reportedly searching woods near McGhee's home in Cabot. A post on the Alice 107.7 Facebook page says the station doesn't know anything more than the media right now, and asks listeners for prayers.
Here's a 2004 story we did on McGhee when he and his partner Heather Brown won our Best of Arkansas Poll for Best Radio Personalities.
Rick Fahr, former publisher of the Log Cabin Democrat, has found a new job, taking the publisher's seat of the River Valley Leader in Russellville on November 26. The more interesting news is the direction he's thinking of taking news collection, as in: straight up, via unmanned, news-collecting drone aircraft.
Recently on his Facebook account, Fahr said that he's had theories he's wanted to put into action for years, and will pursue those with his new position. "First wild thing we're gonna pursue?" Fahr wrote, "Eye in the Sky. We'll probably call it RVL1 — a camera-equipped helicopter or drone that will give us the ability to cover all sorts of happenings like never before (at least for any media outlet not a major TV station)."
Crazy idea? Sure. But not as crazy (or expensive) as you might think — even for a small media outlet like the River Valley Leader. Politico reported in November on a project by a Missouri NPR affiliate which would use a $25,000 grant from the University of Missouri to research and build several news-collecting drone aircraft.
As the North Little Rock Police Department could probably tell you, the FAA has strict regulations on drones and slip ups can lead to catastrophic crashes — not to mention death, given that a drone is basically a flying lawnmower. But if the red tape ever clears, media drones would be loads cheaper than the news helicopters of yesteryear.
Arkansas Blog Air Force, anyone?
Graham worked as an investigative reporter for both KATV and KLRT during his long career. He ran for U.S. Congress in 2000 and was defeated in a runoff by Mike Ross, and ran unsuccessfully for Pulaski County Sheriff in 2006.
I spoke to Graham for the Arkansas Times media column in January 2005 following his departure from KLRT, where he said his assignments amounted to running "rat and roach patrol" at local restaurants, and doing “live shots in front of empty buildings in the dark." Quite a character, as I recall.
Gladner said he's leaving Arkansas for another opportunity that he can't yet divulge. He won't be on-air in his new position.
"It was a very difficult decision. I've made so many friends in my time here," he said.
He'll continue on Fresh Talk for at least another week.
An Obama victory, Karl Rove, Fox News — a priceless opportunity for Jon Stewart who slam dunks.
Sorry, the embed function isn't working, but you can watch the clip at the Daily Show site.
Yesterday, Drudge, Hannity, Daily Caller and other foot soldiers in the Republican echo chamber breathlessly trumpeted release of a video of a speech Barack Obama gave five years ago.
Startling revelation: Obama said nice things about Jeremiah Wright, then his pastor.
Problems: The speech was open to the press. Copies of the speech were distributed. The speech was covered by press. Fox News reported on it. MSNBC reported on it. Jeremiah Wright, you've heard about.
This is what passes as an "exclusive" in Drudge and Hannity Land, the faith-based world where they are never dictated by fact-checkers.
Roger Hodge, the new editor of the Oxford American magazine, spoke to a full crowd tonight at the Clinton School. With prompts from moderator Jay Jennings, he talked about his time at Harper's, where he spent much of his professional career, "clawing his way to the top" from an intern in 1996 to editor, a position he held from 2006 until 2010. Lewis Lapham, long time editor of Harper's had been a mentor, he said, imparting to him the "importance and sancity and the power of the first person singular." Which I think means he believes in empowering writers (Lapham has used the first-person singular line before, including in his praise for Hodge in the OA release). Inspired by working at Harper's along with "a group of people who...have now taken over magazines," including Mother Jones co-editor Clara Jeffrey, GQ editor Jim Nelson and Texas Monthly editor Jake Silverstein, he said he hopes to foster a similar culture, where talented, if often unproven, editors and writers can flourish.
Later, after a question from someone in the crowd about the ownership structure of Harper's, he joked that he wasn't going to say anything bad about Rick MacArthur, the publisher and primary benefactor of Harper's who fired Hodge in 2010, if that's what the questioner was after. (He's been more candid elsewhere.) He also sidestepped an opportunity to be critical of his predecessor, Marc Smirnoff, when asked what he didn't like about the magazine, saying things like every editor does things differently, that he "will enter into a conversation with the traditions of this magazine with the same amount of respect I expect our writers to approach their material" and that an editor should be a coach, not a dictator. Adding more character- and narrative-focused literary journalism is a priority, he said.
Give it early my rave of the week for fresh reporting and insight. It's on-line for those who don't subscribe. Among the good stuff, along with fiction and criticism worthy of note:
* PRESIDENT OBAMA AND RACE: Ta-Nehsi Coates has written a tour de force on President Obama's racial dilemma. He had to be "twice as good" and "half as black" to be the first black president, an achievement Coates doesn't diminish. But he's also had to avoid mention of race almost entirely and, when he does, it's inevitably with damaging political consequences (Trayvon Martin, Henry Louis Gates and more). "Fear of a black president" is still a large and disturbing factor in American politics, only underscored by the Obama experience. It's a long and nuanced article. Snippets:
The election of an African American to our highest political office was alleged to demonstrate a triumph of integration. But when President Obama addressed the tragedy of Trayvon Martin, he demonstrated integration’s great limitation—that acceptance depends not just on being twice as good but on being half as black. And even then, full acceptance is still withheld. The larger effects of this withholding constrict Obama’s presidential potential in areas affected tangentially—or seemingly not at all—by race. Meanwhile, across the country, the community in which Obama is rooted sees this fraudulent equality, and quietly seethes.
... After Obama won, the longed-for post-racial moment did not arrive; on the contrary, racism intensified. At rallies for the nascent Tea Party, people held signs saying things like Obama Plans White Slavery. Steve King, an Iowa congressman and Tea Party favorite, complained that Obama “favors the black person.” In 2009, Rush Limbaugh, bard of white decline, called Obama’s presidency a time when “the white kids now get beat up, with the black kids cheering ‘Yeah, right on, right on, right on.’ And of course everybody says the white kid deserved it—he was born a racist, he’s white.” On Fox & Friends, Glenn Beck asserted that Obama had exposed himself as a guy “who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture … This guy is, I believe, a racist.” Beck later said he was wrong to call Obama a racist. That same week he also called the president’s health-care plan “reparations.”
... Michael Tesler, following up on his research with David Sears on the role of race in the 2008 campaign, recently published a study assessing the impact of race on opposition to and support for health-care reform. The findings are bracing. Obama’s election effectively racialized white Americans’ views, even of health-care policy. As Tesler writes in a paper published in July in The American Journal of Political Science, “Racial attitudes had a significantly greater impact on health care opinions when framed as part of President Obama’s plan than they had when the exact same policies were attributed to President Clinton’s 1993 health care initiative.”
* HOW THE SMART PHONE CHANGED AMERICA: Less provocative, maybe, but still eye-opening to me was this column on the dip in car and home buying by younger Americans, a trend that the writer ties not only to a tough economy but more fundamental changes in our world wrought by technology.
Smartphones compete against cars for young people’s big-ticket dollars, since the cost of a good phone and data plan can exceed $1,000 a year. But they also provide some of the same psychic benefits—opening new vistas and carrying us far from the physical space in which we reside. “You no longer need to feel connected to your friends with a car when you have this technology that’s so ubiquitous, it transcends time and space,” Connelly said.
In other words, mobile technology has empowered more than just car-sharing. It has empowered friendships that can be maintained from a distance. The upshot could be a continuing shift from automobiles to mobile technology, and a big reduction in spending.
Housing is affected, too. Younger people seek denser city cores and rented space rather than suburban homes. Or so the theory goes. Check it out.
* AND MORE: There's an iconoclastic take on how the "hookup culture" is actually about female empowerment, not a further debasement of women. (By a woman writer.) There's an examination of whether certain kinds of booze — say tequila — make you crazier drunk. (No evidence.) An exposure to Iranian culture. A travel article on a visit to the Nevada nuclear test site. (Yes, you, too, can take the tour.) Fox News' glam treatment of women with pageant-worthy makeup and hairdos — guests and their own employees.
All good stuff.
Paul Waldman of MSNBC has written an excellent analysis of why the mainstream press lets Mitt Romney off the hook when he makes remarks about his birth certificate (as opposed, in the minds of the wacko right, to President Obama's), his understanding of America (he said Obama didn't) and advertises the utter falsehood that “Under Obama’s plan, you wouldn’t have to work and wouldn’t have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check." Romney's words are thinly-veiled nods to the ultra right wing, whose biggest problem with Obama is the color of his skin. Waldman writes:
The only way to get Romney to stop would be for the media to call him out clearly enough that the costs of the strategy started to outweigh the benefits. But that's not likely to happen, because most of the media doesn't know how to talk about this. They all know what Romney is doing, but they also know that even the suggestion that Romney is race-baiting will be met by conservatives with faux-outrage and accusations that the "liberal media" has it in for the Republican candidate. There's just enough vagueness in what Romney says to afford him deniability. So long as Republicans stay unified in denying that any thought of appealing to racist impulses ever crossed their minds, they'll have the conventions of "objective" journalism on their side.
Pass it along, into the mainstream.
The Poynter Institute has put together a roundup of reporting on President Obama as media critic. For example, from the New York Times:
Privately and publicly, Mr. Obama has articulated what he sees as two overarching problems: coverage that focuses on political winners and losers rather than substance; and a “false balance,” in which two opposing sides are given equal weight regardless of the facts. …
Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, was previously Time magazine’s Washington bureau chief. He said the president thought that some journalists were more comfortable blaming both parties, regardless of the facts. “To be saying ‘they’re both equally wrong’ or ‘they’re both equally bad,’ ” Mr. Carney said, “then you look high-minded.”
Amen. Facts matter. Consequences matter. Differences of degree are differences.
Yet another media analysis blows up the myth of the liberal media (as seen on Romenesko).
Survey says: Republican voices quoted more often. More negative remarks toward President Obama.
No surprise to me. It's a product, I think of two things: 1) The victimization game the Republicans/conservatives have long played well (the one in which, for example, Christians, who dominate the culture in every respect, are able to get away with saying they are being persecuted in the U.S.) and 2) Republican superiority in social media.
You see results of the latter all the time and the media don't even notice. A paid Republican mouthpiece Twitters: "Why doesn't some reporter ask Designated Democratic Candidate if she's still beating her husband?" Before the day is out, the question has been asked, awkwardly denied (loaded questions are meant to be hard to deny) and the resulting "fair-and-balanced report" (allegation/denial) is circulated. This floats the talking point in free media, which is then rebroadcast via Twitter, Facebook, blast e-mail, blogs and other media outlets. Democrats are currently getting routed in this war.
Founder and editor Marc Smirnoff and managing editor Carol Ann Fitzgerald are no longer employed by the Oxford American, publisher Warwick Sabin said today. Asked about the circumstances and whether they were fired, Sabin said, "as with all Oxford American personnel matters, the details are confidential."
Sabin will serve as interim editor.
"The plan is to continue publishing the Oxford American and delivering additional content over our website and proceeding as normal," he said. "The organization is in good health and we feel confident about the future."
Sabin said the end of Smirnoff and Fitzgerald's employment at the magazine happened unexpectedly, so he doesn't have a time frame for finding a permanent editor. He said the magazine would release details and decisions as they happen and would be contacting its contributors in the coming days.
The next edition will be published on Sep. 1 as planned, Sabin said.
Smirnoff founded the magazine in 1992 in Oxford, Miss. Fitzgerald joined the magazine in 2003, near the end of its time in Little Rock. She continued once the publication was put under the control of The Oxford American Literary Project nonprofit and moved to the University of Central Arkansas in 2004. For at least several of the years the magazine's editorial offices have been in Conway, Smirnoff and Fitzgerald have dated and lived together.
In full disclosure, I worked with Smirnoff and later Fitzgerald from 2002 until 2003 and then again in 2005.
A personnel issue at the magazine became apparent last week when employees were locked out of the publication's editorial offices on the campus at the University of Central Arkansas. A routine police report on the action noted that a personnel review was underway, according to this account in the Log Cabin Democrat.
MAX HERE: I'm trying to reach the departed employees for comment. I probably also should note for any who might not know that Publisher Sabin is a former associate editor at the Times. Sabin tells me that the remaining Oxford American staff — three full-time employees and five interns — are not yet back in offices at UCA, but he hopes to accomplish reopening of the offices today or tomorrow. He wouldn't comment on any specifics related to Smirnoff and Fitzgerald, including what arrangements might have been made for them to retrieve personal items from the offices. Sabin was in New Orleans Sunday to participate in an event announcing a planned TV program on Louisiana music by Harry Connick Jr. It will air in December, the same month as Oxford American's annual music issue, this year devoted to Louisiana music.UPDATE II: Smirnoff responds.
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