The announcement last week that Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250 million dollars was at first shocking. Questions swirled in the media. How could the Graham family ever give up control of this great institution they guided with such courage since 1933? What does a Silicon Valley wizard have in mind for a legendary media company? As I started to listen to news interviews, I calmed down.
Bob Woodward was optimistic that Bezos was a smart choice to bail out the Post. Former editor Len Downey, a friend of my late husband Tim Robinson (a Washington Post reporter and editor in the Watergate era), predicted Bezos was an innovator who would apply his creativity to the issues facing newspapers. I first heard Downey and Woodward on NPR radio. This weekend Downey was on “Face the Nation” and told Bob Schieffer he was cautiously optimistic because Bezos bought the Post as a private company, so doesn’t have the restraints placed on a public company. He could tolerate losses to invest in change and slowly make it profitable, similar to the long, slow development of Amazon into today’s goliath.
Yes, the handwriting has been on the wall for a long time – print journalism is in upheaval and the rise of the internet has forever changed its fate. The New York Times seems to have the sad distinction of being the last great family dynasty surviving in a shrinking landscape. What is the future? I’ve found some links that hold clues to the answer as this story continues to unfold (copied below). I’m rooting that this merging of journalistic tradition and Silicon Valley invention will gell and make the Washington Post even greater, just the way Amazon slowly changed the face of retail on the web. We need that tradition of tough reporters questioning power and keeping it honest in a written format as well as electronic media, but we clearly need to find a new economic model for print. Let’s hope Jeff Bezos will have the answers without killing the soul of a great newspaper.