Clenched-teeth presidential debaters unloaded Tuesday night on Big Pharma, Big Tech, Big-Almost-Everything -- any industry that pours Big Bucks into influencing American politics. Yet, they skimmed right over the scariest and most sinister big sell-out of all: Big Media.
Where during the CNN/New York Times Democratic debate was the crumbling Fourth Estate, whose downhill slide in the 21st Century has sent it on a desperate treasure hunt for sugar daddies to prop it up?
Why didn't the name George Soros pop up?
Democrats don't talk about Big Media's influence because they're the ones who benefit from it. With the exception of FOX, every one of the most influential national news outlets are campaigning -- I mean really flagrantly campaigning -- for far-left liberal candidates and causes.
Early in the 21st Century, George Soros, net worth $26 billion and No. 46 on Forbes' list of the World's Richest Men, discovered he had enough money and the know-how to buy opinion from ethics-challenged or foundering publishers and individual reporters, outfits large and small. Soros never owned a single media outlet. In a tangled web of lofty-sounding foundations he created to "give to causes he wanted to influence," Big Media in all its evil glory was born.
It grew like Jack's beanstalk.
Soros, 89, who made his fortune in investing and currency trading, is pretty much done with bringing money in. Now he makes his name for handing it out -- in the area of politics and policy.
Since the 2004 election, when he spent $27 million trying in vain to defeat George W. Bush, the controversial financier has used his influence and billions to push a laundry list of left-wing causes.
Says the Reston, Va.-based media watchdog organization Media Research Center, "Pick an issue and (Soros') Open Society Foundations (OSF) likely fund the liberal position -- pro-abortion, pro-illegal immigration, pro-national health care, pro-drug legalization, pro-Big Government, anti-Israel and, ultimately, anti-America."
The $27 million "was a drop in the bucket compared to the $8 billion he has donated just to his Open Society Foundations," says the report. Soros followed that presidential failure by earning the well-deserved reputation as one of the top liberal contributors. Soon after the election, "Soros headlined a meeting of 70 millionaires and billionaires in Scottsdale, Ariz., to discuss how to grow the left's ideological assets," explained the Aug. 18, 2005, Christian Science Monitor.
Read the executive summary of Media Research's mind-boggling report, "George Soros: Media Mogul." The Hungarian-born billionaire "has managed to insinuate himself and his money into the media culture, making connections with the nation's top publishing organizations. He has direct ties to more than 30 mainstream news outlets -- including The New York Times, Washington Post, the Associated Press, CNN and ABC. Each one of those operations has employees, often high-level ones, on the boards of Soros-funded media operations."
Soros' "gift" of $1.8 million to National Public Radio became part of the firestorm of controversy that jeopardized NPR’s federal funding. But that gift only hints at the widespread influence the controversial billionaire has on the mainstream media.
The investigative reporting start-up ProPublica is a prime example of Soros' targeted media campaigns. ProPublica, winner of two Pulitzer Prizes, initially was given millions of dollars from the Sandler Foundation to "strengthen the progressive infrastructure" -- "progressive" the code for very liberal. In 2010, it also received a two-year contribution of $125,000 each year from the Open Society Foundations. In case you wonder where that money comes from, the OSF website is www.soros.org. It is a network of more than 30 international foundations, mostly funded by Soros, that have contributed more than $8 billion to those efforts.
ProPublica's stories are thoroughly researched by very good professionals who formerly worked at some of the biggest news outlets in the nation. "But the topics are almost laughably left-wing," says Media Research. "The site's proud list of 'Our Investigations' includes attacks on oil companies, gas companies, the health care industry, for-profit schools and more. More than 100 stories on the latest lefty cause: opposition to drilling for natural gas by hydraulic fracking. Another 100 on the evils of the foreclosure industry.
"Throw in a couple investigations making the military look bad and another about prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and you have almost the perfect journalism fantasy -- a huge budget, lots of major media partners and a liberal agenda unconstrained by advertising."
One more thing: a 14-person Journalism Advisory Board in 2011 was stacked with CNN's David Gergen and representatives from top newspapers, a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal and the editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster. Several were and are today working journalists, including:
Alberto Ibargüen, the former publisher of The Miami Herald, on the board of directors. He's also president and CEO of journalism's prestigious John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Jill Abramson, a managing editor of The New York Times;
Martin D. Baron, the editor of The Boston Globe;
David Boardman, the executive editor of the Seattle Times;
Kerry Smith, the senior vice president for editorial quality of ABC News;
Cynthia A. Tucker, the editor of the editorial page of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
ProPublica is a newer and more prominent example of Soros' opinion buying, but it's far from the only organization the billionaire stacked with members of the supposedly neutral press. There's also the Center for Public Integrity. Its board of directors is filled with working journalists like Christine Amanpour from ABC, right along side blatant liberal media types like Arianna Huffington, of the Huffington Post and now AOL.
"Like ProPublica, the CPI board is a veritable Who's Who of journalism and top media organizations," says Media Research, including:
As mentioned, "Amanpour -- Anchor of ABC's Sunday morning political affairs program, 'This Week with Christiane Amanpour.' A reliable lefty, she has called tax cuts 'giveaways,' the Tea Party 'extreme,' and Obama 'very Reaganesque.'
"Also as mentioned, Huffington -- Co-founder of the popular left-wing website named after her, The Huffington Post, a nationally syndicated columnist, and thanks to a recent $315 million sale, the person in charge of AOL's news divisions.
"Paula Madison -- Executive vice president and chief diversity officer for NBC Universal, who leads NBC Universal's corporate diversity initiatives, spanning all broadcast television, cable, digital, and film properties.
"Matt Thompson - Editorial product manager at National Public Radio and, at least in 2011, an adjunct faculty member at the prominent Poynter Institute, owner of the Tampa Bay Times."
The well-known Center for Investigative Reporting follows the same template -- important journalists on the board and a liberal editorial agenda. Both the board of directors and the advisory board contain journalists from major news outlets. The board features:
Phil Bronstein (President), San Francisco Chronicle;
David Boardman, The Seattle Times;
Len Downie, former Executive Editor of the Washington Post, now VP;
George Osterkamp, CBS News producer.
The Advisory Board features prominent liberal journalists like Bill Moyers, Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker, former '60 Minutes' host Mike Wallace, and representatives of both PBS and NPR.
Why does it all matter? Says Dan Gainor, Media Research's vice president for Business and Culture and author of the report, "Journalists, we are constantly told, are neutral in their reporting. In almost the same breath, many bemoan the influence of money in politics. It is a maxim of both the left and many in the media that conservatives are bought and paid for by business interests. Yet where are the concerns about where their money comes from?"
This is personal to me. I've reached the end of the line in a business I have loved, leaving it in real trouble. I long for the days when reporters began their investigations with questions, not statements. When they set out to find the answers, not prove some assumed, deliberately trumped-up conclusion. If I learned nothing else in 50 years, I learned that nothing is black or white. The life we live and report on is somewhere in the middle.
But, as Media Research's Gainor points out, "George Soros is teaching journalists that their industry has a future as long as he opens his wallet."
The American people may not know all they're missing, but they've sensed for a very long time that the mainstream media have failed them in a society in which "Freedom of the Press" used to mean something. Now they know their instincts were right and they know why.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith