Monday, April 6, 2015

The `New York Times'' Mexican Billionaire Connection Revisited: Part 2

Most people who live in New York City—including most of New York City’s over 183,000 Mexican-American residents—don’t think that the human rights of people in Mexico should be violated or that Mexican workers and consumers should be exploited by the Mexican government or the corporations that Mexican billionaires or U.S. billionaires own or control.

Yet one of the richest billionaires in the world—a Mexican billionaire named Carlos Slim—has been one of the owners in recent years of the Big Apple’s New York Times newspaper—which publishes “all the news that fits the rich” each day. As Sherry Ricchiardi noted in an article, titled “A Dubious Benefactor,” that appeared in the April/May 2009 issue of American Journalism Review [AJR]:

“On January 19 [2009], the Times Co. accepted a $250 million loan at 14 percent interest from a controversial billionaire who already owned a 6.9 percent stake in the company.

“The benefactor: Carlos Slim Helú.

“Immediately, questions swirled about the propriety of the nation's leading newspaper getting a bailout from a much-criticized subject of its own news coverage…The industry was abuzz with the apparent conflict of interest…The Times Co. declined requests for an interview about the company's connection to the Mexican billionaire…Slim's son-in-law and spokesman, Arturo Elias Ayub, declined a request for an interview with Slim or a family member for this story…If Slim exercises the warrants he holds from the loan, he will be among the largest single shareholders in the Times Co., owning up to 17 percent of the common shares outstanding...reported Times writer Eric Dash…”

And in an article, titled “When the World’s Richest Billionaire Owns Your Paper: The New York Times covers Carlos Slim—carefully,” that appeared in the November 2013 issue of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting [F.A.I.R.]’s Extra! magazine, Zaid Jilani indicated how the New York Times has been reporting in recent years about the Mexican billionaire that owns much of its stock:

“In 2008, the multibillionaire purchased a 6.4 percent stake in the New York Times Company. Today, he is the second-largest shareholder in the company, with a 13 percent stake…

“A natural topic for coverage would be Slim’s telecommunications monopoly that critics charge has free rein to rip off millions of consumers…The OECD calculated that this virtual monopoly by Slim reduces the living standard of the average Mexican family by over $600 a year...The OECD study did get a passing reference in a 2011 Times article on Mexico’s attempt to break up Slim’s monopoly—which mentioned Slim’s stake in the Times in the print version, but not the online edition. The article, headlined `Mexico Takes Aim at a Titan in Telecom,’ looked at a $1 billion fine that Mexico’s antitrust agency imposed on one of Slim’s subsidiaries…Places where criticism of Slim would seem obvious sometimes find him conspicuously absent, as when Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote that Mexico has `big energy, telecom’ monopolies that are harming the country’s economy—without naming the Mexican monopolist who owns much of the company that pays Friedman’s salary.

“Incidents of public pushback to Slim’s business practices have also gone unnoted, as when hundreds demonstrated when George Washington University gave him an honorary degree; Mexican immigrant groups threatened boycotts against his telecommunications companies; and activists in the U.S. and Mexico formed the group Two Countries, One Voice to rally against Slim…You’ll find the paper’s sharpest criticism of Slim in an op-ed from 2007, a year before he became an investor in the Times. In it, Eduardo Porter condemns Slim as a `robber baron.’ Porter writes that `Mr. Slim’s sin, if not technically criminal, is like that of Rockefeller, the sin of the monopolist.’…

“Perhaps the paper was feeling like it had given its future investor a raw deal. By December of that year, it published a reported piece calling Slim a `new breed of billionaire’ who “has pledged billions of dollars to his two foundations that will aid health and education.’”

(end of part 2)

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