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Are the Billionaire Owners of the L.A. Times and Washington Post Good for Journalism?

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From Truthdig


The Los Angeles Times' new owner, Patrick Soon-Shiong, has moved the newspaper's home base from its longtime headquarters in downtown Los Angeles to El Segundo, Calif.
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For years now, if not decades, much of the news about the American news business has not been good, putting it mildly. This year is no exception, as headlines still in circulation blare bad tidings about the ongoing gutting of major newsrooms, and journalists around the country -- whether in local or national, digital or legacy, broadcast or print outlets -- brace for more potential shake-ups and layoffs as more owners favor the bottom line over the public good.

All this, right at the moment when we could really use a robust free press -- or at least a rough approximation of that ideal.

But at least one news source with a sprawling market and a storied legacy appears to be catching a break. Those who have been following along as the Los Angeles Times hit a series of precarious challenges, some unique and others in keeping with industrywide trends, know that the company recently underwent yet another shift that put the reins back in the hands of a local owner, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong.

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Longtime journalist Nick Goldberg, currently serving as editorial page editor of the Los Angeles Times, is sanguine about the billionaire doctor-entrepeneur now running the business. "His goal is not to squeeze the company for profit ... but to do great journalism," Goldberg tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer in this week's episode of "Scheer Intelligence."

Still, Goldberg is waiting to see how early signs of promise play out and doesn't play down the toll that so much upheaval has taken on the Times. Scheer, who served as a national correspondent and op-ed and local columnist over the course of some three decades at the paper, points out that the number of foreign bureaus under the Times' auspices has shrunk considerably, for one thing.

Goldberg emphasizes the strengths of the organization that remains, telling Scheer that the story of the journalists who have been doing their jobs while rolling with the changes around them is nothing short of "heroic." He notes that although, so far, Soon-Shiong apparently "understands that he has to leave reporters and their editors alone ... we'll have to see what he does."

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Still, Scheer wonders, can a major-market paper owned by even a benevolent deep-pocketed sponsor continue to cover potentially controversial stories about, say, the economy? "They are people that have benefited from a certain kind of capitalism," Scheer says of the billionaire class.

Listen to Golberg's reply in the full interview below:

 

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Robert Scheer is editor in chief of the progressive Internet site Truthdig. He has built a reputation for strong social and political writing over his 30 years as a journalist. He conducted the famous Playboy magazine interview in which Jimmy (more...)
 

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