“The allegation that they are sympathizing with terrorists, or use terrorist means, I haven’t seen substantiated in any way,” said Jeffrey Martini, an expert on Islamic movements at the RAND Corporation. “From what I’ve seen of their activities they’re actually on the other side. They’re trying to disavow the use of violence.” Martini said that characterizing the group as militant based on the conviction of a single member would be akin to calling the Democratic or Republican parties criminal organizations on the basis of convictions against individual lawmakers.
Watchdog.org also mixes its reporting with high-decibel commentary—such as Greenhut’s recent column denouncing warnings about sequestration cuts as the government’s “latest strategy scam for more dollars.” The site does not distinguish between straight news and opinion in terms of presentation on the home page, although it does archive them in different categories.
If the Koch brothers did procure Tribune Company, or even one of its big guns, like the Los Angeles Times, what is the connection between ownership and point of view? That’s a hard one. Bob Davis, the president of the Association of Opinion Journalists, said that it is traditionally frowned upon for newspaper owners to influence their paper’s news coverage. But he said there are a wide variety of arrangements by which owners can legitimately influence the editorial page. A blog post in the LA Weekly, filed after the writer spoke to a member of the Los Angeles Times editorial board, suggested that the Kochs might team up in bidding for the paper with Doug Manchester, owner of the former San Diego Union-Tribune, known now as U-T San Diego. LA Weekly wrote that Manchester changed the editorial page of that paper to match his conservative beliefs.
Davis said he does not know the particulars of the Kochs’ interest in the Tribune newspapers, but that “at first blush, it would be a safe assumption” that the editorial pages would be likely to change if they purchased it.
As the process of the sale of Tribune Company newspapers unfolds, reporters both within the company and outside it might want to keep a close eye on who the new owners will be, and on what their track record tells us about their vision for American media. Readers too.