Reporters and editors at the Washington Post have been doing their best to learn as much as they can about their new owner, but Amazon founder Jeff Bezos seems to be in no rush to get to know them. In a staff meeting this evening, Post editor Marty Baron, who is expected to stay on at the paper, told employees that he had not yet spoken with Bezos about his plans for the paper, and that he did not expect the new owner to visit until after Labor Day. In general, Baron said, he did not expect to see much of the Seattle-based Bezos in Washington. “I would be shocked if he spends a lot of time here,” Baron said.
Baron, who arrived from the Boston Globe early this year, was upbeat about the transaction despite not having had the chance to learn more about Bezos's vision. Bezos, Baron said, was “probably as good a new owner we could get” and someone who lacked ulterior motives for buying the paper: “I don’t think he has much to gain by buying the Washington Post.” He did not envision Bezos taking much interest in the daily content of the paper, saying that his focus would be on its “business model.” “I don’t think he’s going to have a point of view about our art criticism…or in tinkering with our editorial page,” Baron said.
Baron saw the simple fact of the purchase as a morale boost for newspapers: “With this transaction, you’re going to hear a lot less that this is a dying industry.” At the same time, Baron predicted that big changes were coming. “He has shaken up the entire retail landscape…I’d like to be the organization that shakes up” the media landscape.
Baron was already adapting to the Bezos model in one regard—several times, he referred not to readers, but, as Bezos always does, to “customers.” Asked about which of the various platforms for reading news the Post would focus on in the future, Baron said of Bezos, “He’ll want us to be where the customers are.”
Note: As many readers of this blog know, I used to work at the Post, from 2006 to 2011. I’ll also note, for what it’s worth, that my father worked under Baron at the Globe until his retirement early this year.