I’m still stunned by the news today that Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and publishing’s chosen foe, has bought The Washington Post Company. And while I am like many others in wondering what he plans to do with the venerable newspaper, I think we can probably draw a few hints from the open letter that was published this afternoon on the Washington Post website.
In the letter he promises not to change the core values of the paper, but he also notes that changes will have to happen. Traditional revenue sources are drying up, the old ways are changing, and the newspaper needs to experiment with new ideas in order to prosper. Here’s the letter, in full:
To the employees of The Washington Post:
You’ll have heard the news, and many of you will greet it with a degree of apprehension. When a single family owns a company for many decades, and when that family acts for all those decades in good faith, in a principled manner, in good times and in rough times, as stewards of important values – when that family has done such a good job – it is only natural to worry about change.
Journalism plays a critical role in a free society, and The Washington Post — as the hometown paper of the capital city of the United States — is especially important. I would highlight two kinds of courage the Grahams have shown as owners that I hope to channel. The first is the courage to say wait, be sure, slow down, get another source. Real people and their reputations, livelihoods and families are at stake. The second is the courage to say follow the story, no matter the cost. While I hope no one ever threatens to put one of my body parts through a wringer, if they do, thanks to Mrs. Graham’s example, I’ll be ready.
I want to say one last thing that’s really not about the paper or this change in ownership. I have had the great pleasure of getting to know Don very well over the last ten plus years. I do not know a finer man.