Three Los Angeles City Council members -- including a candidate for mayor -- asked their colleagues Tuesday to consider pulling city pension money from the investment firms that own the Los Angeles Times if they sell the publication to buyers who do not support "professional and objective journalism."
Since emerging from bankruptcy last year, Tribune Co. -- which owns eight newspapers including The Times and 23 television stations -- has been guided by a board of directors that include its largest creditors. It has been widely reported that the directors are interested in selling the newspapers, preferably all together.
Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who called for the council to act, said he was motivated by recent news reports that billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are among those interested in buying the newspapers. The Kochs in recent national elections have provided major financial support to libertarian candidates and causes.
"Frankly what I hear about the Koch brothers, if it's true, it's the end of journalism,'' said Rosendahl, a former broadcaster. "I don't want to see Los Angeles, the second-largest city and the biggest region in the nation, not to have a quality newspaper."
Rosendahl's motion calls on the council to support a buyer who has demonstrated "the highest terms of professional and objective journalism." It also calls for a report on how the city can use its pension funds and other investments as leverage to achieve that goal.
"We cannot support the sale of the Times to entities who Times readers would view as a political transaction first and foremost, turning L.A.'s metropolitan daily into an ideological mouthpiece whose commitment to empirical journalism would be unproven at best," Rosendahl wrote in the motion. "A newspaper isn't just a business it's also a civic trust."
Besides Rosendahl, the motion was signed by Councilman Dennis Zine, who is running for city controller , and Councilman and mayoral hopeful Eric Garcetti. The mayoral election, which pits Garcetti against City Controller Wendy Greuel, will be held May 21.
The motion, which was not discussed by the council Tuesday, will get its first hearing in coming weeks before the council’s Budget and Finance Committee. If the measure wins approval there, it would move before the full council for consideration.
Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman declined to comment, saying it is company policy not to address speculation about any of its media properties.