Jeff Bezos could be journalism’s shot in the arm
Even Carl Bernstein believes there is great possibility in the future of the ‘Washington Post’ under the Amazon founder’s ownership
There were a number of other journalist heroes in the 1960s and 1970s, but for my generation it was Woodward and Bernstein and their work at the Washington Post that brought home the importance of that first amendment protection and promise.
Thus the recent news that a much-reduced and straitened Washington Post had been sold to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos came as a shock. The Post was synonymous with Graham family ownership. The Post was not about becoming a tech billionaire plaything.
But then, the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea.
Why not Bezos?
He’s smart and sharp and iconoclastic and determined. He knows how to ride the ups and downs of business.
He has been a creative businessman and has understood how to move an initial idea – selling books online – into new areas that keep the business fresh.
He also was critical to the success of the ebook, perhaps the biggest publishing shift for a very old print format since the printing press. The newspaper faces a similar digital transition.
Bezos also doesn’t seem to have bought the Post as a personal political mouthpiece but simply because he respects what it has been, and would like to see it continue to be, in whatever format that might take.
I think he might do some truly exciting things in publishing, not least because he has real knowledge of the online world as well as doing successful business in it (not the waffle that I have heard from far too many “consultants” in online media, weak in knowledge of media or of business or of both).
I was delighted to come across an interview last week in the Wall Street Journal Speakeasy blog with Bernstein that indicated he too thought there was great possibility in the future of the Post under Bezos’s ownership, saying he thought it allowed “ a renaissance of an economic model” for producing journalism.
He was quoted as saying: “Bezos is going to understand that dynamic push to find a way to make the connection between the business model, technological model and the enduring reportorial notions of what is the best obtainable version [of the] truth.”
It’s a great read, if too brief. And he’s still wonderfully inspiring about journalism, investigative work and publishing.
Read his take on those topics and the Bezos sale here: iti.ms/16KLXjB