Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

August 7, 2013

Bezos buys the Washington Post

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jeff Bezos turned selling books online into a multibillion-dollar business that has changed retailing forever. Many are now anxious to see if Bezos can do the same for the media industry, after the Amazon.com founder announced he is buying The Washington Post and other newspapers for $250 million.

Monday’s news of the sale to the 49-year-old pioneer of Internet commerce came as a shock to observers, many of whom thought the Graham family would never sell. It also sparked hope among the ranks of reporters beset by seemingly endless cutbacks.

Among his champions are the members of the family selling the paper, including publisher Katharine Weymouth, who promised to stay on as publisher.

As some journalists shed tears, others expressed optimism.

“Jeff Bezos seems to me exactly the kind of inventive and innovative choice needed to bring about a recommitment to great journalism,” said Carl Bernstein, whose co-reporting of the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s cemented the newspaper’s identity as a political watchdog.

But The Post, like most newspapers, has been losing readers and advertisers to the Internet while watching its value plummet. The paper has cut its newsroom staff repeatedly in recent years and closed several bureaus.

Many see Bezos, whose fortune was valued at $25 billion by Forbes magazine, as being rich enough to sustain the losses the newspaper will likely face over the next few years.

Bezos is buying the newspaper as an individual. Amazon.com Inc. is not involved.

Bezos said to Post employees in a letter distributed to the media that he’d be keeping his “day job” as Amazon CEO and a life in “the other Washington” where Amazon’s headquarters are based in Seattle.

But he made clear there would be changes, if unforeseen ones, coming.

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