It has now been more than six months since Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced his deal to buy the Washington Post. It’s been more than four months since the transaction closed and Bezos was legally in charge. But so far nothing seems to have changed. The paper still seems to be in a defensive crouch rather than back on the offense, fueled by Bezos’s promise to invest both his money and his brain in the enterprise and launch a bunch of think-outside-the-box initiatives.
For example, Ezra Klein, the maestro of the Post’s Wonkblog, is reported to be about to leave because Bezos and Washington Post executives turned down his proposal to start an ambitious offshoot of his widely-followed domestic policy blog. Without looking at Klein’s business plan it’s impossible to know if their decision makes sense, but the situation is eerily similar to when the prior ownership of the Post turned down the pitch by then-star-reporters John Harris and Jim VandeHei to start something called Politico — which they then took to rival media company Allbritton Communications.
Over the weekend the New York Times announced that it has beefed up its already-strong China team by hiring the award-winning reporter whose pending story about ties between China’s richest man and the country’s rulers was held or killed (depending on whose account you believe) by Bloomberg News, after which the reporter abruptly left the company. The moment he became available it seemed to me that Bezos could have sent a clear and relatively inexpensive signal that the Post was back in the game by snagging him.
Did Bezos or Marty Baron, the Post editor, even try? (Which suggests another story: will the Post’s coverage of China be affected by Amazon’s business interests there the way Bloomberg’s seem to have been — and what are those interests?)
Similarly, did Bezos personally vet Ezra Klein’s plan and reject it? Was there a substantive discussion, in which Bezos tried to tweak the plan only to be rejected by Klein? Or, was Bezos not even personally involved?