Once upon a time a man named E. K. Gaylord moved to Oklahoma City. He bought a newspaper called the Daily Oklahoman. Then he bought a lot of other stuff. Like the leading AM radio station, back before anyone even knew FM existed and later the Oklahoma City NBC television affiliate. He didn't use tobacco or drink alcohol. He got off on making money and running things.
He was an arch conservative and since he basically controlled most of the news content in the state's largest city he was able to incessantly bombard the population with his version of events. He owned politicians like other people owned toy soldiers. If you got on his hit list you never got off it.
The old fuck lived until he was 101 years old. After he died his son, Edward took over the corporation known as the Oklahoma Publishing Company, or OPUBCO for short. Ed wasn't the newspaper man his father was, in fact he seemed bored with it. He went out and bought most of Nashville and established cable TV channels dedicated to country and western music. He built huge hotels and bought others. Like his father he was a conservative whirling dervish who made no secret of his loathing for all things left of say, Barry Goldwater. He hired a bunch of right wing thugs to run the paper, which in time became basically a republican party newsletter. Other than the sports pages and obituaries most of everything you read in it was culled from AP wire reports and carefully edited to reflect a hard core conservative view of America. It was a publication so unabashedly biased that the Columbia Journalism Review called it, "The worst newspaper in America."
Ed's daughter Christy took over running the paper as he continued to spend most of his time promoting the careers of people like Reba McIntire and buying into ventures such as Bass Pro Shops. Christy is married to a guy named Jim Everest. Among other things Jim's father made millions distributing magazines in the state. Back in the late 60's and early 70's when I knew him Jim was a stark raving racist. You know, the Ku Klux Klan obsessive sort. Every conversation with him, no matter where it started out, ended up focusing on the dual threats of black people and Jews.
These were the people who manipulated and controlled what Oklahomans read, heard and saw for decades. They gave fabulous amounts of money to politicians they liked and relentlessly hounded those they felt were a threat.
Last year the family sold almost all of it to a Colorado billionaire named Philip Anschutz. In a parting message Christy assured her fellow Oklahomans that Mr. Anschutz was just as conservative as the Gaylords. She swore they would have never sold to anyone suspected of anything less.
Under the leadership of Phil Anschutz the paper has continued its conservative bent and remains the really big stick when it comes to politics. The Gaylords may be gone, but no one wants to be on the bad side of what is now known as, The Oklahoman.
Yesterday, I posted on this blog that Senator Tom Coburn was holding up the judicial nominations of Robert Bacharach and John Dowdell. Most of the information I used appeared in a front page story written by The Oklahoman Washington Bureau writer, Chris Casteel. It was not a particularly flattering piece for Coburn and seemed to tacitly question the motives for his inaction.
Less than twenty four hours later, Coburn gave his go ahead on both nominations, clearing the way for hearings to be held. That revelation was buried on page 10A. I suppose even The Oklahoman knows it is unseemly to wantonly display its power on page one. One can only imagine how red Coburn's face became when he learned about yesterday's article. People like the ones who run The Oklahoman do not send their reporters out on political stories unless they have a message to convey to someone. Obviously Coburn got it.
It is nice to know The Oklahoman still runs things around here. I hate to think there would, or could be a power void where those in elected office go off willy nilly doing whatever they actually believe. Yes, we all must be responsible to a higher power. Anarchy is, after all, an ugly and chaotic state. Order has to be preserved. Someone needs to be in charge.
And today, Tom Coburn and the rest of us know exactly who it is. The old Big Brother is gone, long live the new one.