Historical Journalism Move: CEO of Amazon Buys the Washington Post

Breaking news came in when Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, bought the Washington Post yesterday for $250 million–in cash.

The media flurry begins in the most likely of places: on the Washington Post‘s site itself. I first caught wind of it with Publishers Weekly’s announcement. “The Post could have survived under the company’s ownership and been profitable for the foreseeable future,” said Donald Graham, the Post’s  CEO. “But we wanted to do more than survive. I’m not saying this guarantees success, but it gives us a much greater chance of success.”

The news came as a shock to everyone, especially the employees of the paper. But when you stop to think about it, printed newspapers have been facing new challenges for some time now, especially with the advent of technology changing the way news is reported and published. A different approach kind of makes sense, though how different it will be remains to be seen. This is what Bezos says about the change: “There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment. Our touchstone will be readers, understanding what they care about – government, local leaders, restaurant openings, scout troops, businesses, charities, governors, sports – and working backwards from there. I’m excited and optimistic about the opportunity for invention.” Well, that sounds promising.

Though Amazon is also a Seattle-based company, it reportedly will have nothing to do with the deal. It is just another company that Bezos owns.

If there’s anything that you can count on all writers to write about, it’s writing. Too simple? Maybe; Twitter was abuzz with the news to the point where it seemed like the entire world was engulfed by this event. We’ve seen what happens when literature becomes corporatized, after all! In fact, it is found in our (OK, my) favorite genre: dystopia, because it is so horrifying a concept it sends chills down our spines. But I guess people were tweeting about it more than actually speaking, because no one outside of my Twittersphere seemed aware of this colossal news! For some great “mediaception”–that is, media about the media–check out Mediabistro’s compilation of reactions around the web. You’re in for a laugh.

Bezos, CEO of Amazon, speaks to the press about purchasing the Post. (Image courtesy of the Washington Post.)

But before we get swept away in epic drama–I’m talking to you, Twitter–let’s take a look at what Bezos said. In a smart move, he released an open letter to the staff of the Washington Post, basically saying that just because ownership was changing didn’t mean he wanted them to change at the core. Classy, Bezos. An excerpt:

The values of The Post do not need changing. The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners. We will continue to follow the truth wherever it leads, and we’ll work hard not to make mistakes. When we do, we will own up to them quickly and completely.

I, for one, will be laying down my torch. If you think about it like a business, which I guess is what it comes down to, Bezos saved a newspaper from collapsing. If he lives up to his claim, he’s not taking away free speech–he’s enabling it.

I just have one question for him: Mr. Bezos, did you receive free super saver shipping® with your purchase?

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3 thoughts on “Historical Journalism Move: CEO of Amazon Buys the Washington Post

  1. Good perspective on the purchase Amanda. The only saying applies here…. Those that don’t change are destined to fail. As you point out, newspaper media has been on the dwindling list for a long time now, so perhaps this purchase and the new ownership will help.

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    • Thank you! I agree; I do hope that it will help. There’s no real reason why the newspaper wouldn’t be able to stay committed to reporting the truth, just because money is coming from somewhere else. It would be different if a political organization picked up the paper; then, I would be more concerned. This is just a business owner with money–not even Amazon the company–who is backing the work. It almost reminds me of patrons of famous artists and musicians in days of yore. We might never have had Handel’s Water Music if not for King George I! 😉

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  2. Pingback: Happy Birthday to You (Two): Ray Bradbury & Claude Debussy | Jelly-Side Up

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