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Jeff Bezos Making His Mark At The Washington Post

Jeff Bezos Washington Post

It’s been several months now since the surprising sale of The Washington Post to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and it appears that we’re just now beginning to see the impact that his ownership will have on the paper:

The Washington Post has significantly increased its budget and plans to make dozens of newsroom hires under its new owner, the Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, the paper’s executive editor, Marty Baron, said in an interview on Wednesday.

Mr. Bezos has closely consulted with The Post’s leadership in plotting its growth strategy and the moves represent Mr. Bezos’s “first mark on the paper,” Mr. Baron said.

The Post will introduce several initiatives this year, Mr. Baron said in a memo to his staff on Wednesday. There will be five new politics reporters as well as photo editors, data visualization specialists, news desk staff and web designers. It will add a breaking news desk and a Sunday style and arts section, as well as a revamped Sunday magazine that will be “bigger in dimension and in the number of pages, with a new design and a range of new features.”

The plan will be executed quickly — interviews for new hires began weeks ago — and represents “a substantial expansion of the budget,” Mr. Baron said, though he declined to provide precise figures.

Shortly after Mr. Bezos bought the paper, Mr. Baron and other senior staff were “asked to come up with ideas for what we wanted to do,” Mr. Baron said. In late October, he and several colleagues flew to Bellevue, Wash., to meet with Mr. Bezos and present the plan. There were also conference calls and email exchanges, as well as in-person meetings at The Post’s offices in Washington.

Mr. Bezos would “just challenge our assumptions, cause us to rethink things,” he said. “He’s spent his entire life and his entire career thinking about where the consumer will be in the long run, and where the technology will be in the long run.”

The crucial question, and the one that preoccupies Mr. Bezos, Mr. Baron said, is, “How do we produce growth?”

“And obviously our growth,” said Mr. Baron, “as well as the growth of institutions like The New York Times is likely to come from the digital arena.”

In that regard, we’ve already seen several interesting moves by the Post on the digital side, such as the announcement in December that Radley Balko, who has long specialized in reporting on police abuse and the War On Drugs, would be joining the staff with his own blog and last week’s announcement that The Volokh Conspiracy had become part of the Post’s retinue of bloggers and analysts. Just yesterday, the Post announced that it would be bringing on more bloggers and other writers, and that the site would be under going a redesign in the near future:

A memo to staffers from Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron outlines some of the paper’s plans for the next year.

The news organization plans to hire “writers to author ‘verticals’ on a wide array of subjects,” Baron writes. “These blogs will both deepen our reporting in The Post’s traditional areas of concentration and broaden the range of subjects we cover.”

The Post also plans to get going on a site redesign, Baron says, and it will expand its Sunday magazine and “introduce a Sunday Style & Arts section that makes a forceful and elegant statement about our strengths in those areas.” It will further add a “breaking-news desk that will operate from 8 a.m. until midnight.”

The Post did end up losing Ezra Klein and Wonkblog, but that seems to be largely because of a difference of visions about how to proceed, namely the fact that Klein seemed to want $10,000,000 and virtual independence, while the Post apparently felt that it had already given Klein more than enough independence compared to other writers and that a $10 million investment in an uncertain project wasn’t in their business interests. On the whole, though, it seems clear that Bezos’s purchase of the Post is leading the paper in a digital direction, which isn’t entirely surprising given that this is where Bezos has made his mark for the past twenty years.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. grumpy realist says:

    Maybe he’ll get rid of Jennifer Rubin?

    *sigh*….guess a Girl Can Dream…..

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  2. @grumpy realist:

    I wouldn’t mind that. Rubin’s “analysis” is a complete joke. If there’s looking for someone on the right who can do a political analysis blog from a conservative perspective, there are much better people out there.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  3. michael reynolds says:

    Actually, an honest political analysis from the right would have to begin with, “Everything the right has had to say on economics, social issues, education and drug policy has been categorically proven to be bullsh!t. We got nothing.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 6

  4. grumpy realist says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Jennifer Rubin’s demonstrated “thought” processes are enough to make me agree with the most oink-headed reactionary male comments about Women and Logic. That’s how bad she is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  5. gVOR08 says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Name three. I ask because I’ve looked for good conservative sources and if there actually are three, I’d like to know about them. When NYT had to dump Bill Kristol the best they could do was Ross Douthat.

    Note that it has to be people who actually speak for conservative Republicans, not people like, say, Bruce Bartlett. He writes well, does excellent analysis, and is a true conservative. But he does not represent or influence actual Republican policy or politicians. Ponuru is supposed to be good, but he writes about a magical Republican Party in his head, not the one we have to deal with.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  6. superdestroyer says:

    @gVOR08:

    I would not call Bartlett a conservative because Barlett is just a nitpicker of other Republicans. Barlett is not even honest enough to state that the way to revitalize the Republican Party in the U.S. would be to raise taxes enough to balance the federal budget.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  7. Matt Bernius says:

    @gVOR08:

    Name three. I ask because I’ve looked for good conservative sources and if there actually are three, I’d like to know about them.

    Hell, recruit one of them for OTB!

    When NYT had to dump Bill Kristol the best they could do was Ross Douthat.

    Snark aside, this was a huge step up. Producing an ongoing column in a major pub is not an easy task. Douthat’s done a solid job on it. Sometimes he produces cringe-worthy stuff. But so does ever writer. It’s just we’re less forgiving of that material because of our political leanings.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. Andre Kenji says:

    @gVOR08: ANYONE is better than Jennifer Rubin. I think that Super Destroyer would be a better job in the Post than her.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  9. michael reynolds says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    I disagree that it’s hard to write a twice a week column. I think it’s one of the easiest gigs in professional writing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  10. Andre Kenji says:

    @michael reynolds: Douthat does a much better job writing blogs or writing long articles than writing columns. But I think that the real problem is that he is too elitist(In a good sense) to be accepted by Conservatives, that´s why he has to resort to trolling the Feminists…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. John425 says:

    @michael reynolds: That must be your arse talking, Michael. Your mouth knows better.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  12. Anonne says:

    @gVOR08:

    Name three. I ask because I’ve looked for good conservative sources and if there actually are three, I’d like to know about them.

    Well that depends on how you define conservative. If you mean Tea Party radicals, there aren’t any. All the “good” conservative sources are what the Party would consider RINOs or, like you assess Ramesh Ponnuru (who already does a few contributions at the Post iirc), doesn’t deal with the party as it is.

    That said, my choices for conservative sources would probably be Daniel Larison, Kathleen Parker (who is already there), and David Frum.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  13. michael reynolds says:

    @John425:

    As a guy who has written 150 or so books, not to mention blogs, and a newspaper column for a while, I probably know more than you do about this by several orders of magnitude.

    Writers tend to be whiny and self-pitying. Columnists know they’ve got a cushy gig and they feel defensive about it, hence their self-serving crapola about it being hard. 1500 words a week? With the help of a research staff and an assistant? Puh-lease. I would think I was retired if I worked at that pace.

    I just banged out a 90 page interstitial as a freebee because I felt overpaid on a 250 page book. No assistant. No staff. 90 pages times 250 words, that would be 22,000 words or 30 newspaper columns. Took me a week – while I was simultaneously researching a separate series and learning how to do screenplays.

    Like I said: writers whine a lot. Me, I used to do actual work for a living, and I know the difference.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. michael reynolds says:

    Oh, and for a more on-point comparison, Ernie Pyle before WW2 was writing a daily column, while driving himself all across America, without a computer, each column resting on interviews with locals and sights seen.

    Daily. While on the road. And he was Ernie Fugging Pyle and on his best day Ross Douthat couldn’t touch Pyle’s worst prose.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. Kari Q says:

    @gVOR08:

    Name three. I ask because I’ve looked for good conservative sources and if there actually are three, I’d like to know about them.

    Aside from Doug here, I’d suggest you read The American Conservative. Except when founder Pat Buchanan posts, the writing there is usually intelligent and thought provoking. I disagree with Rod Dreher on almost everything, but the only time I think he’s an idiot is when he gets himself all bent out of shape over something he reads in a college newspaper. (Of course college students are doing foolish things, Rod. That’s what college is for). Daniel Larison is always worth reading.

    It is worth noting that while both Larison and Dreher regard themselves (quite rightly, I think) as conservatives, neither one would be regarded as acceptable to movement conservatism today. Larison is opposed to military intervention in Iran and Dreher believes global warming is happening.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. grumpy realist says:

    @Kari Q: Dreher has an incredible twist in his panties about Single-Sex Marriage. To hear him screech, you’d think that it’s Golgotha, the Titanic, the Fall of Rome, and every single disaster movie rolled into one.

    He also envisions Catholics crouching in catacombs after the next few years, after the Feminazi Gay Liberal Hordes have taken over.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. Kari Q says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Yes, anything about sex (whether it be same sex marriage or bigamy or anything really other than a married couple engaging in the act for procreation) you need to glide right past. He’s … a little unhinged on the topic.

    But if you can get him to talk about something other than sex, he’s usually fairly good.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. HelloWorld! says:

    @Doug Mataconis: it would be interesting to see what conservative analysis would be like without all the hyperboly and jargon. I’m not sure I can remember a time when the right relied on facts to support a position.

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