Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Washington Post Turns Corporate

When Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post last year, some wondered how the paper would turn a profit.  After all, newspapers in general have been struggling since the digital age took over news delivery.  The solution for him is apparently to bring in someone with strong ties to both the corporate world and business-friendly administrations.

From Jim Newell at Salon:

Since it’s been in private control, and no longer subject to public shareholder pressure, the paper has invested in hiring dozens and dozens of new staffers with all sorts of cutting-edge “online experience,” writers who understand that the journalism of the future will involve getting lots of people to click on lots of stuff. No word yet on when/how this all becomes profitable. But that’s for the suits to worry about.

And that suit, apparently, will no longer be Katharine Weymouth, who’s leaving her role as publisher of the Washington Post. The exit by Weymouth, granddaughter of legendary Post publisher Katharine Graham, finally puts to rest longtime control of the paper by the Graham family. Into whose carefully chosen hands, now, shall control of the Post go? Which innovative digital prophet will lead the new Growth Era of the Washington Post?

Oh, just some old Reagan hand.

Well, we shouldn’t say “some” old Reagan hand. Fred Ryan, who’s just been named the Post’s new publisher, is among the more Reagan-y people to ever walk the earth — somewhat less Reagan-y than Ronald Reagan himself, but probably more Reagan-y than Nancy Reagan or other members of the Reagan family.

[…]

One might say Ryan is “pro-Reagan,” in other words. A lot of people, for whatever reason, are. But we’re talking about the world’s  No. 1 Reagan superfan, here. And now the Washington Post’s editorial board answers to him. This is news. (In his previous non-Reagan work, Ryan served as CEO of Politico. He helped co-found the organization back in the “old days” of 2007, when it was known as THE POLITICO and survived on Drudge links.)

Ryan is promising “editorial independence” and blah blah blah, like all right-wing publishers do when they take over a media property. And that may or may not turn out to be a lie. Assuming he were to press his own views on the editorial board, though, just how much difference would that make? Very little on the foreign policy side. The post’s editorial board is already run by editor Fred Hiatt and his deputy, Jackson Diehl, who run a comically hawkish all-war-all-the-time shop. On domestic policy, the Post is vaguely center-left — generally supportive of government programs’ ability to effect change, but also priggishly concerned about bad manners.

Reagan stuff aside, what a lame, classically Washington choice this is from Jeff Bezos: some Reaganite lawyer. Just when it looked like the Post was finally pulling its head out of its ass, it’s pulled right back in.

He and Rupert Murdoch will have a lot to talk about.

I’ve basically given up reading the Washington Post on-line since they have joined the paywall brigade and haven’t figured out how to stay in business without figuring out that not all their readers are from the District and don’t want their e-mail boxes in Miami flooded with pleas for home delivery deals.  If Jeff Bezos can become a multi-billionaire by running a business without making a profit, he can do the same with a newspaper, and getting a former Reagan toady to run it seems right up his alley.