-By Kathleen Miles
April 30, 2013- At a Los Angeles Times in-house awards ceremony a week ago, columnist Steve Lopez addressed the elephant in the room.
Speaking to the entire staff, he said, "Raise your hand if you would quit if the paper was bought by Austin Beutner's group." No one raised their hands.
"Raise you hand if you would quit if the paper was bought by Rupert Murdoch." A few people raised their hands.
Facing the elephant trunk-on, "Raise your hand if you would quit if the paper was bought by the Koch brothers." About half the staff raised their hands.
Recent owner of the LA Times, Sam Zell, has been painted as the devil incarnate for slashing the editorial staff and for his vulgar demeanor.
But at least, editorially, he's stayed out of the reporters' business. There hasn't been propaganda reporting, and there aren't topics that are off-limits to the staff, according to a few Times reporters. The editorial page, definitely leaning left but not afraid, for example, to chastise unions, hasn't changed much since Zell bought the Tribune Co., owner of the newspaper and eight others, in 2007.
That may not be the case under the paper's future leadership, even if the group favored by the staff and readers takes over.
As Tribune Co. emerges from a four-year bankruptcy, the predominantly Democratic city is quivering at the rumor that libertarian billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch may be interested in buying the LA Times. The brothers are believed to be the only group prepared to buy all eight Tribune papers, including the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel and Hartford Courant, as a package — how Tribune would like to sell them.
The ownership that most Angelenos seem to favor is a coalition of LA billionaires who have expressed interest in running the paper as a nonprofit, led by former Democratic mayoral candidate Austin Beutner and including prominent Democratic donor Eli Broad.