There’s been a lot of angst in journalistic circles about the sale of The Washington Post to Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com. “End of An Era” was one headline. And the sales of other iconic American institutions, The Boston Globe and Newsweek, were also alarming for many journalists.
Certainly, these developments are the latest signs of the continuing demise of the newspaper and magazine business. There’s also the knee-jerk fear and dread that these businessmen will now have a public platform to promote their pet projects and opinions. But hopefully, this is also the beginning of a new era to reinvent and reinvigorate the industry.
I have always had a special interest in newspapers. After all, I started my career as a reporter at The Plain Dealer. It was my first job out of college and I loved it. I had never taken a journalism course, so it was on the job where I learned about good reporting, writing, and the importance of getting the story right.
(Read More: Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Buying the Washington Post)
My newspaper roots (and also magazine publishing because of my years as writer for Fortune) are one reason I still insist on getting newspapers delivered to my home every day—five of them (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Investor Business Daily, The New York Post). When my adult children come home to visit they think it’s quaint to get the actual, physical paper. But I like to think that in some small way, I am supporting newspapers. I also get tremendous pleasure from holding the papers and reading them cover to cover—something I miss when I read online and inevitably don’t catch some of the best stories.
So it is troubling for me to see one newspaper after another folding. Some cities have become a “one newspaper town,” silencing multiple voices on local and national issues. The bigger worry is that newspapers will cease to exist altogether.
I’m hoping that Bezos will figure out how to save and grow newspapers and to make them financially viable. I am counting on his entrepreneurship and his abilities to innovate and to revive the industry. And it’s not for the sake of nostalgia. In these days of blogs and tweets and biased television talk shows where opinions are treated like facts, I believe it is extremely important to support real objective reporting and keeping opinions on the editorial page. The American people deserve to get the unbiased news of the day—from as many sources as possible.
It was an act of courage for Donald Graham, chairman and CEO of The Washington Post, to sell the paper to Bezos. His statement on why he decided to sell was admirable: “Only after years of familiar newspaper industry challenges made us wonder if there might be another owner who would be better for the Post.” Certainly, it was a difficult decision for Graham, whose family built The Post into the premier example of journalistic integrity serving the interests of the American public.
Time will tell if Jeff Bezos is the right person to revolutionize The Washington Post. I hope he has the vision and strategy to pull it off.
Let me know what you think.