As you've probably heard, Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, is buying The Washington Post.
This news caught our attention at AllSides because Bezos is a known innovator and we are interested in innovating to promote and preserve journalistic integrity in a world where many feel the media is "broken." Improving media, and helping our democracy work better, is a core to our vision at AllSides.
In a letter to Post employees, Bezos said : "The Internet is transforming almost every element of the news business: shortening news cycles, eroding long-reliable revenue sources, and enabling new kinds of competition, some of which bear little or no news-gathering costs. There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment."
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The Washington Post will be privately held under Bezos, which means that the paper will no longer be subjected to investors' demands for rising profits. This, combined with his own wealth to keep the outlet afloat, is what gives him the freedom to experiment.
The Post earned a reputation for strong investigative journalism over the last 80 years, but like most newspapers it struggled financially over the last decade.
A problem to solve: the effect of falling profits on journalism
Most efforts to improve profits in journalism have been degrading journalism - choosing entertainment over hard news, "advertorials" written by biased sources, and ads for fat loss and testosterone in online articles. Also, falling profits have meant less money to spend on in-depth investigation. Not surprisingly, news readership continues to decline.
Telling only one side of the story, which many if not most news outlets are doing more and more, is another trend. This weakens their credibility, further eroding their readership and helping further polarize America.
A Daily Show clip this week addressed this topic in parody : "...newspapers thought that people want to pay money for information. But we now know from the internet that what they really want is their own opinions fed back to them for free." John Hodgman, playing an eccentric billionaire, declares a Washington Post headline about an Obama Internet initiative "boring." He says he's going to create three different newspapers that would take the same story and spin it three different ways - for Right, Left, and Cat Video Watchers (shown above).
A longing for more depth and breadth in journalism comes from the Right as well. Journalist Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D., expressed this in her article The Washington Post Buy: Why We Need Jeff Bezos to Save Journalism: "...Mr. Bezos’ embrace of invention, his almost neurotic attention to detail, his patience and investment in the long view, give the Washington Post and the industry the best shot at relevancy and survival. The time is ripe for a full-throated journalism that forgoes the shallow, the easy, the spin, and the theatrics to stand up for the little guy. Not doing so will be the kiss of death to our craft and democracy."
Innovating to solve the problem
At AllSides, we focus on providing the best, most informative experience for the news consumer. That means filtering through the chaos of the 24 hour news cycle to concisely present the full-spectrum view of stories. We also partner with news sites to earn for them much needed revenue with solid news and reader interaction that improves the overall coverage - rather than provide more ads for testosterone and fat loss.
We look forward to seeing the experimentation unfold at the Post under Bezos. We'll be cheering on any innovation that promotes and preserves journalistic integrity - which in turn strengthens our democracy, our nation, and our people.