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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Greater expectations

Will Jeff Bezos' purchase of the Washington Post kindle a new era of journalism? Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

The announcement that the founder of Amazon.com will purchase the Post has set off an unusual round of optimism about the future of reporting the news. Note I did not say newspapers, that dying relic of a bygone era whose future may truly have been sealed by this deal.

Coming just two days after John Henry's purchase of the Boston Globe, some are seeing this as a watershed moment. But tons of new questions emerge.

Henry toured the Globe newsroom yesterday and hinted that future visits will be symbolic rather than an effort to shape coverage. Time will tell.

Bezos also promised to be a hands-off newsroom presence, saying he has no plans to give up the reins of Amazon, which is not part of the deal, to move across country to run the show.

It's easy to see the differences in the billionaire owners -- one who earned his cash through shrewd investments, the other in putting a vision for a new business into place. One will be a local owner, the other transcontinental.

The Post's new boss is clearly more a man of the wired era than Henry, sparking the hope that he will bring innovation to an industry in drastic need of fresh ideas.

But any observer can't help but feel a bit queasy at the increasing movement of media properties from long-established companies to individuals none of whom, with the exception of Rupert Murdoch, have any knowledge of the basic tenets of journalism.

On second thought, maybe that's a good thing.

Bezos is taking over a newspaper that brought down a president and ushered in a new era of investigative reporting. Today's Post is far different, centered in the capital of lazy journalism that bends over so far to avoid the partisan taunts of bias that it has been hijacked by the politicians it claims to cover.

If he lives up to his pledge to keep his hands off the newsroom, Bezos will ultimately play no role in effecting the most important change that newspaper reporters -- and their broadcast and Internet kin -- need the most. That's a renewed focus on comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe if guys like Buffet and these other billionaires could fund reporters individually the need for independent reporting can be filled. Macarthur Foundation like grants, for life.

August 06, 2013 7:01 AM  
Anonymous Joel Patterson said...

Amazon has a monopoly in bookselling: Barnes & Noble and Borders are practically gone. Moreover, Amazon relies on mistreating its workers.
It won't hurt Jeff Bezos' interests to control the #1 info source in a town where the DOJ will make a decision to prosecute a monopoly like they did for Boening, Standard Oil, AT&T, and Microsoft.
Bezos won't need to say what he wants. He can rely on the writer & editors at the Post hoping to rise up the chain by pleasing him.

August 20, 2013 5:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In a lot of ways I am to the right of the Tea Party, but I always read and enjoyed this blog. Civil discourse is our only hope and the moderator of this blog provided some good insights and opinions because I always try to listen to all arguments. The apparent demise of this blog is unfortunate. Hope to see it revived, but if not thanks.

September 24, 2013 11:00 AM  

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