Last week, it was big news that TIME magazine was to be bought by the Meredith Corporation with the financial backing of the Koch Brothers. Big news maybe, but not surprising news. So, when I read that the L.A. Weekly was suddenly bought and fired literally almost all of its staff the next day with no notice, I decided to do some research.
At first, the L.A. Weekly's new owners refused to say who they were. Whoever they were, they had created an LLC called Semanal just to acquire the publication. Then on December 1st, came this article written by Brian Calle and published on its site that stated that he and a handful of other investors were behind the mysterious purchase. He opened the piece with a not so humorous jab at progressives and the alt media's readers by claiming that they must have been asking if a Russian oligarch or a "Trumpista" had secretly bought the media outlet.
A ha ha....you are not so funny.
Who is Brian Calle?
Here's what L.A. Weekly's readers should know about Brian Calle: he's a quiet Koch loving conservative. No kidding. He doesn't want you to know that, but he is. Here he is misleading his readers with this article he wrote in April of 2016 for his employer, the Southern California News Group who had just purchased other news outlets:
Unfortunately, most opinion journalism today is..., often times beholden to political ideology or political party affiliation. As such, there is a lack of thoughtful, credible and articulate voices advocating for policies that are economically and fiscally responsible and socially inclusive - a voice desperately needed in today's modern political discourse. Our Editorial Board is beholden to no political Party or ideology.
What Brian failed to inform his readers back then, and continues to not tell them today, is that he was the vice president of the right wing think tank, the Claremont Institute. This institute is funded by such notable right wing organizations as the anti-immigration Sarah Scaife Foundation and its affiliated Carthage Foundation. Other right wing funders who helped pay for Calle's services were the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Jaquelin Hume Foundation and the John M. Olin Foundation.
Calle also neglected to inform his readers that he is listed as the editor-in-chief of CalWatch, an organization that claims to keep a watchful eye out for government fraud. Like Calle, CalWatch is not up front about who funds and owns it. With a bit of digging, I discovered that the founder is Steven Greenhut who was the former vice president of the Franklin Center of Government and Public Integrity, which has a fantastic sounding name until you discover that it is funded by the Koch Brothers through their Donors Trust, Donors Capital Fund and the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. It was even a vice-chairman level sponsor for their American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that writes all of the Republican legislation. Reuters' White House correspondent, Gene Gibbons, described the writers from the Franklin Center and its various state Watchdog groups as "...delivering political propaganda dressed up as journalism..."
Then there's the fact that Brian Calle is listed as an "expert speaker" on EdChoice's website. EdChoice is a huge supporter of the DeVos style education system that has failed in Michigan and is now being implemented throughout the U.S. via the Trump administration. It is also an associate of the Kochs' State Policy Network that assists ALEC. They are so connected that Matthew Ladner, a Koch and EdChoice fellow, actually co-wrote ALEC's education legislation for them.
Other influences on Calle
Calle's boss, Southern California Media Group is owned by Digital First, which is owned by the Alden Global Capital hedge fund. Alden Global has spent years buying up any media outlets they can and even hold investments in the pro-Trump Sinclair Broadcast Group, McClatchy, Media General and Gannett to name a few. This gives Digital First and their owners control of over 97 different news outlets in California, New York, Minnesota, Connecticut, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico and Michigan. All these news outlets are owned and operated by this one company.
Whose opinion is it?
When Brian Calle wrote this article during the 2016 election advocating the idea proposed by the Kochs for a third candidate, how did his readers know if it was his opinion or that of the Kochs? Here's his article telling readers why they should back school charters. Was he paid to write that for EdChoice? Who knows? Not his readers.
Few readers know that when their local papers and websites are bought up by this web of companies like Digital First and Alden Global, they then handpick their editors and journalists from these Koch supported organizations and other think tanks that pump out supposed independent journalists like Brian Calle. What's even worse is that Calle has been invited on local news shows to give his opinions on a variety of issues. I sincerely doubt these news shows know whose opinions Calle is actually espousing.
Expect more and more of this. Our freedom of the press won't be destroyed openly by any government law, but by the takeover of these outlets by conservative/libertarian billionaire organizations and groups that only advocate their principles that benefit only themselves. Unfortunately for Americans, there are plenty of people like Brian Calle willing to mislead them.
Editor's Note: If the Kochs and other right wing billionaires have their way, there will be no progressive voices in media (or criticizing traditional media) anywhere. This is why we are fighting to stay afloat and raising funds to do that. Please donate to keep our servers running!