Paleontologists say the Age of Dinosaurs ended with the Cretaceous Period. Mark Aug. 5, 2013, on your calendar as the beginning of the end for modern dinosaurs. That’s the day that new media consumed old media, as Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos bought up one of the most dominant old media names – The Washington Post – for just $250 million. That’s less than one-third the value of the Oakland Raiders football team, and that’s only the 50th most valuable sports team according to Forbes.
Unlike most journalists, Bezos understands profit. He ranks No. 19 on the Forbes Billionaires List with $25.2 billion.
He’s buying a newspaper that “has suffered a 44 percent decline in operating revenue over the past six years,” according to the paper’s own story/obit.
Apparently, the paper must have been on his Amazon shopping list. Edgy considering Bezos also has said: “Printed papers won’t be normal in twenty years.” Then again, has the Post ever been “normal?”
The sale followed a similar sale of the Boston Globe for $70 million and reflects a recent trend in the news industry of big-name owners buying newspaper properties for a fraction of what they were once worth.
Bezos himself got to the crux of the problem after the purchase. He wrote up a feel-good memo designed to calm the troops, stating: “So, let me start with something critical. The values of The Post do not need changing.”
In other words, one of the nation’s most institutionally left-wing, pro-Democrat newspapers will stay exactly the same. And journalists around America will cheer. Just as they do when Buffett buys newspapers. But let the Koch brothers even discuss such purchases and journos squeal like bureaucrats when people talk Sequester.
The Post curiously said Bezos “has given little indication of his ideological leanings over the years” and went on to show three ways he’s liberal.
He and his wife “have regularly donated to the campaign of Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the couple donated $2.5 million to “legalize same-sex marriage in Washington state” and Amazon itself is backing the rise of an Internet sales tax, designed to harm the company’s competition.
No matter how you slice it, that’s not conservative, though some claim Bezos is “libertarian.” Especially, deploying the government to drive up the cost of your competitors’ businesses with a wildly complex tax law.
The sale was big media news and all three broadcast networks covered it. Both NBC and CBS were eager to point out that the paper’s values will not change – not that journalists are liberal or anything.
NBC anchor Brian Williams called it a “bombshell” and then gave his support for lefty buyers like Buffett. “It’s part of a recent trend in which wealthy individuals are becoming the saviors in many cases of traditional mainstream and especially print media. Many cases because they believe in quality work and a robust press.”
Saviors? Well NBC is owned by the same folks who operate MSNBC, so ridiculous comments should be its stock in trade.
One of the most curious aspects of the sale was The New York Times’ oddly timed puff profile of Post Publisher Katherine Weymouth. She’s the granddaughter of “Katharine Graham, the pioneering publisher of The Washington Post.” The piece came out on Sunday, the day before the announcement. It doesn’t take a box of tinfoil or some dude calling himself “Deep Throat” to find that suspicious.
The more than 3,000-word story compared Weymouth to “royalty,” gushed with descriptions of “her athletic figure” and called her “quick-witted and no-nonsense.”
The story read like a press release even before the announced sale. Now that everyone knows the Graham family has sold, it can only mean one of two things. Either Weymouth agreed to be part of this “journalistic” travesty and hid the sale from her interviewer or, more likely, the piece was timed precisely around the sale to make Weymouth look good just before the announcement.
Those are the kinds of noises dinosaurs make when they realize they are becoming extinct – write a nice story about your competitor’s ownership because your owners are likely next in line for a farewell tour.
Or at least we can hope.
Dan Gainor is the Media Research Center's Vice President for Business and Culture. He writes frequently about media for Fox News Opinion. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.