Monday, May 13th, 2013

Incomplete Reporting on the Tribune Rumor

If there was ever any doubt that news media, follow news media, follow news media, the stories about rumors of Koch buying Tribune newspapers are a case study.

Since March 12, when rumor of Koch’s alleged interest in Tribune properties was reported in LA Weekly, literally hundreds of stories and blogs have raced to cover the “news.” Starting on March 12, we began providing this statement to news media:

Koch Statement
“As an entrepreneurial company with 60,000 employees around the world, we are constantly exploring profitable opportunities in many industries and sectors. So, it is natural that our name would come up in connection with this rumor. We respect the independence of the journalistic institutions referenced in today’s news stories, but it is our long-standing policy not to comment on deals or rumors of deals we may or may not be exploring. “

The Koch/Tribune story died down for a while, then as some activist bloggers and union protests began to coalesce – protests about the rumor – the New York Times sent us an inquiry asking if we wanted to comment on the California Labor Federation’s letter “opposing the Koch brothers’ possible bid for the Tribune Company’s newspapers,” and whether we had “a specific response to the letter and the fact that labor has mounted such an organized effort to oppose a bid by the Koch Brothers.”

We sent the New York Times reporter the full statement noted above along with this response:

Thanks for your email. Below is our statement on this subject. In addition, we would add that Koch companies have about 50,000 employees in the U.S.  About 15,000 of those – 30 percent – are represented by unions.  We support voluntary associations, and we recognize employees’ rights to be represented and bargain collectively. Where unions exist, we respect their status, work with them in good faith, and honor the terms of our collective bargaining agreements. This has been true for more than 50 years.

 Here is a March 2011 piece from Politico – quoting a senior USW official’s memo to membership about Koch.

I hope this is helpful. Thanks and can you tell me when your piece will run?

On Sunday, May 8, the New York Times story ran. Oddly, our comments about unions were nowhere to be found and only a snippet of our statement was included: “Melissa Cohlmia, a spokeswoman for the Koch companies, declined to comment on the protests. “We respect the independence of the journalistic institutions referenced in today’s news stories, but it is our longstanding policy not to comment on deals or rumors of deals we may or may not be exploring,” she said.”

Within minutes of the story posting, we sent an email to the New York Times and asked if they would include our information about unions because “it provides important context about Koch companies.” The reporter responded that the information “was cut.” We appealed again, but to no avail.

Interestingly, we received an inquiry from the Los Angeles Times on this same subject. We sent them the same information we gave to the New York Times and, to the LA Times credit, they included part of our comments about unions: “Melissa Cohlmia, a spokeswoman for Koch Industries, said in an email that about 30% of the company’s workforce — 15,000 employees  — are represented by unions. She declined to say whether the company is seeking to buy The Times and other Tribune properties.”

Does the New York Times’ coverage of Koch reveal a deliberate attempt to slant the news and deprive readers of the full story? You be the judge of their coverage and the echo chamber of media who follow them.

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