In an announcement that startled the media world, The Washington Post Co. said it had sold its flagship newspaper (and affiliated publications) to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for $250 million.
Rachel Maddow talked to Dan Rather about the sale, and whether it matters who owns news outlets. The Washington Post was overseen by the Graham family for four generations. And although the Post, like most newspapers, was suffering financially, there had been no rumors that the legendary paper was for sale.
Bezos himself will own the paper, not Amazon. “I won’t be leading The Washington Post day-to-day,” he said. “I am happily living in ‘the other Washington’ where I have a day job that I love. Besides that, The Post already has an excellent leadership team that knows much more about the news business than I do, and I’m extremely grateful to them for agreeing to stay on.”
The paper is probably most famous for its coverage of Watergate. Carl Bernstein, who along with Bob Woodward broke the story for the paper, said he had “high hopes that today’s announcement will represent a great moment in the history of a great institution: recognition that a new kind of entrepreneurship and leadership, fashioned in the age of the new technology, is needed to lead not just The Post, but perhaps the news business itself, in combining the best of enduring journalistic values with all the potential of the digital era – including a profit model that will finance a renaissance of the kind of reporting that is essential for Washington, for American journalism, and for the world.”
Don Graham, the Washington Post Co.’s, chief executive, shared the news with the staff in what he himself called “a most surprising announcement.”
Why are we selling, and why to Jeff? The first question is much the harder.
All the Grahams in this room have been proud to know since we were very little that we were part of the family that owned The Washington Post. We have loved the paper, what it stood for, and those who produced it.
But the point of our ownership has always been that it was supposed to be good for The Post. As the newspaper business continued to bring up questions to which we have no answers, Katharine and I began to ask ourselves if our small public company was still the best home for the newspaper. Our revenues had declined seven years in a row. We had innovated, and to my critical eye our innovations had been quite successful in audience and in quality, but they hadn’t made up for the revenue decline. Our answer had to be cost cuts, and we knew there was a limit to that. We were certain the paper would survive under our ownership, but we wanted it to do more than that. We wanted it to succeed.