Amazon.com Founder Jeff Bezos Buys Washington Post
It was splashed across the (internet) headlines earlier Monday that after decades, the family that has owned and operated the Washington Post had sold the struggling paper. It came as even more of a shock to some that the man on the receiving end of the deal was internet guru Jeffrey Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com.
Bezos reportedly purchased the print outlet for $250 million from the Graham family, who has owned the paper for the past 80 years. It’s not the fact that someone invested hundreds of millions of dollars with the intention of making a profit on a struggling paper that’s surprised many, but the fact that Bezos has no experience with traditional print journalism.
Washington Post columnist Michelle Singletary addressed those same concerns from the perspective of an employee affected by the purchase in her Tuesday piece, “The day my company was sold”. She expressed worry that she may lose her job, that her pension would dry up, or, more notably for the readers that the Washington Post environment would be drastically changed. Friends tried to calm her nerves by saying, “Bezos is innovative. Look to him to look for ways to package and market content,” but it did little to quell her anxiety.
This bubbling unease isn’t just building in the depths of the staff’s stomachs either. A similar reaction is being experienced by many loyal readers who are wondering whether Bezos will take on this new venture with a determination to manipulate the publication into a money-making, new journalism venture, or if he will let things lie.
It’s not to say that a fresh perspective wouldn’t be appreciated or that new journalism is bad, actually it’s quite the opposite. The worry is that the publication may try to take on a completely new identity by shedding its former, still much respected skin.
If numbers have anything to say, and they usually do, it’s that many are welcoming the transition as the paper’s shares hit a five-year high of $599.85, according to Reuters. Publications like Politico and The Atlantic have hope, if not cautious for the new future of the paper.
“Let us hope that this is what the sale signifies: the beginning of a phase in which this Gilded Age’s major beneficiaries re-invest in the infrastructure of our public intelligence,” wrote Atlantic correspondent James Fallows in his piece “Why the Sale of the Washington Post Seems So Significant.”
And Politico ran the headline, “Bezos re-Kindles hope at WaPo.”
Fallows closing remarks are a touching sentiment for the farewell of a fading era in journalism.
“We hope it marks a beginning,” he writes. “Because we know it marks an end.”
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