Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Washington Post sold to "outsider," Jeff Bezos of

Jean Purcell

The scope of an author's audience is not as important as the author's commitment to launch out, elevate skills, and write new works regardless of small or large audiences. Yet, larger audiences indicate a measure of success, and that's mainly why I refer to news about Jeff Bezos, founder of, as new owner of The Washington Post. He aims to re-make The Washington Post into an economic and news-publishing success.

Jeff Bezos has made successful worldwide. As its entrepreneurial founder and owner, his name caught attention due to's innovations and success with consumers. And the success was not driven by the creator's knowledge about everything his online company was selling. It was due to his ideas, foresight, and attention to current interests and needs of consumers. In the widening world of digital access, he saw business and sales as vital parts of the new Internet scene.

Not even's successes could predict that their business craftsman would want to buy The Washington Post. The move shocked Post readers and staff. The first surprise was the sale outside the Meyer-Graham family. Then, early reactions about the buyer were negative: (1) Bezos is not a news professional or even a publishing guy and (2) Bezos lives in Washington state, not Washington, DC.

Some questioned what Donald Graham, the highly respected heir to The Post, was thinking when he not only sold the paper but sold it to someone outside the news business and the powerful city from which The Post reports. After all, the Eugene Meyer and Philip Graham (Meyer's son-in-law), Katharine Meyer Graham (Meyer's daughter and Philip's wife), Donald Graham (Katharine and Philip's son), and Katharine Graham Weymouth (granddaughter of Katharine Graham) families have controlled The Washington Post for four dynamic generations. Their lives centered around The Post from within the nation's capital they have known and enriched.        

Money is the assumed and reported reason for the paper's sale. Those responsible saw no other way to take The Post successfully through increasingly rough economic waters for print news. They accepted Jeff Bezos as its billionaire buyer, for $250 million. Those who know Donald Graham tend to believe that he had reason to trust the Bezos offer and its potential for their paper. 

The Post will change ownership hands officially next month, October 2013. No management or staff changes have been announced. The new chief of "the world's most respected newspaper" still will not be skilled in either journalism or editing. Mainly, Bezos will begin to build on the admiration he expresses for the paper and his business vision for its future. The Post reports that he has an "upbeat vision"* for saving The Washington Post (see online edition), whose print edition red ink keeps flowing.
The Bezos business vision, philosophy, and practices are already being sketched onto The Post. The paper's crew met for two days this week with Bezos at The Post building on 15th Street, NW. Attending the last day were Ben Bradlee, former chief editor of Watergate days and now a V.P.-at-large, and  Elizabeth (Lally) Graham Weymouth, Publisher and CEO. The Post reported on the new owner's straight-forward communication with staff and executives this week, including:   
  • "'The death knell for any enterprise is to glorify the past, no matter how good it was.'" 
  • "Put readers, not advertisers, first."
  • "Don't write to impress each other."
  • "...'Don't be boring.'"
  • He sees The Post as '"a daily ritual,' ..."as a bundle, not merely a series of individual stories."
Such comments are transferable to the business of publishers and writers across genres.  

*Source: The Washington Post, print edition, Thursday, September 5, 2013, C1, C4. For more, use Online edition report link

Jean Purcell is the author of Not All Roads Lead Home, Highland Books UK and Opine Publishing USA. Pen name Jane Bullard