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Jewish World Review
August 7, 2013/ 1 Elul, 5773
Can Amazon's Bezos save Washington Post?
The most pathetic suggestion for saving American newspapers from the trash heap was the one that said government should step in, letting taxpayers compensate for revenues fleeing to the Internet. It's an idea that fits snuggly with the progressive worship of an all-embracing Big Daddy on which we all depend for more and more as we sacrifice ever more of our liberties.
Look what is happening instead. Entrepreneurship is happening. Jeffrey P. Bezos is happening. To be more precise, Bezos, the founder and top boss of the amazing Amazon.com Internet retailer, has purchased The Washington Post, a newspaper rightly considered the best there is on Washington news even as its past owners gasped in dismay at income struggling to keep up with outgo.
The Post is hardly alone in that. I have worked for three metropolitan dailies. They are all gone, and, yes, they were all in two-newspaper cities and we learned long ago there is only enough advertising in most cities to support one mainstream newspaper with full-fledged ambitions. But we are at the point now where the possible revenues -- including those from national advertisers -- can barely keep one major newspaper alive in many metro areas.
The reasons did not all begin recently, and they are many, ranging from TV to public mistrust to a culture that's less and less into paper, more and more into digital. It's this last one I will focus on, first mentioning that newspapers are expensive to operate. They depend on hefty capital investments, lots and lots of labor, newsprint that always gets most expensive at just the wrong times and daily door-to-door delivery. What other products do you still get that way?
It is not so much through news competition that the Internet has done its damage. Most newspapers have an Internet presence, and most of the best-reported news you read online is from newspapers. The Internet damage has been largely in the grab of classified advertising, costing papers much too much of what they need to keep chugging along. Once, in Aspen, Colo., I met a man who said his name was Craig. I asked him what he did for a living. "I have a list," he said, and sure enough, he was Craig Newmark, founder of the extraordinarily successful Craigslist that has helped make newspapers extraordinarily less successful.
Bezos seems to me to be of the same stuff as Craig, or as a Bill Gates, or, to point to some who made the newspaper industry something special in this country, James Gordon Bennett, William Randolph Hearst, Joseph Pulitzer, E.W. Scripps. And Adolph Ochs.
Bezos was a Wall Street guy who gave that up, started an online bookstore in a garage and took it to the billions zone, selling far more than books. He has special knowledge of what works on the Internet, and I suspect he will be a leader in showing how to use digital as a rescue mechanism for newspapers, finding a model to bring in the kind of cash needed for sustaining splendid reporting.
In the end, I don't know whether it will be mostly digital, all digital or what, but the point will be to save entities that gather news like no one else.
We've already had some fumbling and some success along these lines, and we need more success because, for all the faults of newspapers -- and please, don't get me started -- they have been a major gift to our democracy, providing huge numbers of us on a daily basis with a better understanding of current events than we can commonly get elsewhere.
Maybe Bezos can also help bring some needed reforms to the Post while retaining its excellence. I lived in D.C. for nine years. I read it daily, mumbled about liberal bias sometimes, but knew, too, how good it was on D.C. politics and government. Mr. Entrepreneur, save the day.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
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Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado.
07/24/13: Detroit becomes a valuable warning
07/17/13: The profiling of George Zimmerman
07/10/13: Obama says Earth warm, may think it's flat
07/03/13: Senate immigration bill borders on reckless
06/26/13: Fake 'hero' must be caught and tried
06/19/13: With crime, control works --- just not the one considered the magical solution
06/12/13: What happened to the anti-Bush? Reality happened
06/05/13: Obama crosses bridge before coming to it
05/29/13: Biting the Apple: Nothing infuriates neo-socialist curmudgeons more than free enterprise of the vigorous, corporate kind expanding the reach of our lives
05/22/13: Evidence tells us the administrative state can be grotesquely unfair, unconstitutional, self-contradictory, unspeakably autocratically intrusive, stupid and morally repulsive
05/15/13: It's raining cats, dogs and scandals
05/08/13: Grads, heed Jefferson, not Obama
05/01/13: Letting planes fly on time
04/24/13: How about having a poetry century?
03/28/13: TV news can give you the blues
03/20/13: We're upside down and debt crash is coming
03/13/13: Stock market is downright perky. Blame the corporations
03/06/13: Bloomberg rivals Carrie Nation
02/27/13: The Wily One is proving in polls that it's no toughie to fool lots of people most of the time
02/20/13: On Obama, swans, goulash and invisibility
02/13/13: Drones and hypocrisy
01/30/13: The Nixonian Obama
01/23/13: Is Obama making JFK-style mistakes?
01/02/13: Kerry nomination emblematic of woes coming
12/26/12: Hollywood beats Harvard in history?
12/12/12: Immigration issues solve themselves
12/06/12: Durbin's deficiency
11/29/12: Man of the century
11/21/12: A big scandal coming?
11/14/12: U.S. should follow the Swedish path
11/07/12: Hanging from a poll
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• 10/29/12: When the 'kooks' and 'racists' turn out to be your ideological allies
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• 10/18/12: An interruption that tells a bigger tale
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• 10/12/12: Big Bird squabble points to something real
• 10/11/12: The 'war' you don't hear about --- the one on average Americans
• 08/22/12: Obama leadership: Romney's returns trump road to recovery
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• 08/01/12: Combatting free speech
• 07/25/12: Good and bad reactions to Colorado horror
• 07/18/12: Apology time for Obama
• 07/16/12: Free markets solve climate change threats
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• 07/06/12: Why we'll miss Andy Griffith
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• 07/02/12: A social solution --- homes with dads
• 06/27/12: Being a 'nation of immigrants' is not an excuse
• 06/20/12: Barack Obama the autocrat
• 06/18/12: Bradbury's lessons for today
• 06/13/12: Should this leaking administration sink?
• 06/11/12: Simpson bashes back on reform
• 06/05/12: Legalize sugary drinks, ban dangerous drugs
• 06/04/12: Keep America from going Greek
• 06/01/12: Don't believe in Obama's fairy tales
• 05/30/12: Writing a book? Beats prison
• 05/23/12: Student loans fail students
• 05/21/12: Europeanizing America into crisis
• 05/16/12: Obama a bully, too
• 05/15/12: Walker recall vote could swing national pension policy
• 05/07/12: Bumbling, fumbling, benighted, old Washington near tipping point where freedom is done for
• 05/02/12: The Communists cannot be happy
• 04/30/12: There's no objective truth, least of all concerning behavior
• 04/25/12: Forgive the extremist?
• 04/23/12: Educational excellence is a game
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• 04/16/12: Overregulation strikes again: The nanny state threatens to turn us into children
• 04/11/12: Obama is not bonkers
• 04/04/12: Will America vote against authoritarianism?
• 04/02/12: 'Tipping point' on federal restraint approaches
• 03/28/12: Obama truth from an open mike
• 03/21/12: The progressive campaign for voter fraud
• 03/19/12: Public pensions will get us if we don't watch out
• 03/14/12: Politics needs reporting, not speculation
• 03/12/12: Home of the free, the brave, the endangered
• 03/07/12: Obama used Limbaugh as scapegoat
• 03/05/12: Campaign substance lost in media melodrama
• 03/01/12: When Big Brother drowns
• 02/24/12: Obama goes gaseous on gas
• 02/22/12: Political tears for trust in personal empowerment --- except in the bedroom
• 02/17/12: Of cut-off ears and silenced mouths
• 02/15/12: Obama is a joke whose antics aren't funny
• 02/10/12: An energy boom looms, despite Obama
• 02/08/12: Obama's assault on faith
• 02/03/12: Can Romney get serious?
• 01/27/12: Obama is like an Italian ship captain
• 01/25/12: Newt Gingrich's first 100 days
• 01/20/12: Obama's Keystone pipeline lies
• 01/18/12: Critics worse than urinating Marines
• 01/13/12: Ron Paul is a cartoonish character
• 01/11/12: Newt Gingrich upset by Mitt Romney's brilliance
• 01/09/12: How about regulating presidents, too?
• 01/04/12: How America smothers itself
• 12/30/11: A tax break that helps break the nation
• 12/28/11: Watch out for the banana peel, Newt
• 12/21/11: A tale of two men
• 12/16/11: Strange happenings in Russia
• 12/14/11: Tim Tebow is a man of character
• 12/09/11: A populist, envy-mongering fraud divisively exacerbating resentment among different groups of Americans
• 12/07/11: Tax games threaten nation
• 12/05/11: Why Wal-Mart serves us better than Barney Frank
• 11/30/11: Not writing off Newt
• 11/28/11: Answers to the Iranian threat
• 11/23/11: Failure of the incumbency investment
• 11/18/11: Occupiers: Chop off their heads!
• 11/16/11: Obama asks jobless to sacrifice
• 11/09/11: Michael Moore's insufferable occupation
• 11/04/11: Political tipping point is coming
• 11/02/11: Idealogues versus 7 billion
• 10/28/11: Obama games on student loans
• 10/26/11: Wit and quick moves v. humanity and thoroughgoing honesty? It's no contest - or at least shouldn't be
• 10/07/11: Baptists, bootleggers and Wall Street protesters
• 10/05/11: Federal law will get you even if you watch out
• 09/28/11: Leftist bugbears on the march
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• 09/21/11: Obama's Madoff ploy
• 09/19/11: U.S. can't afford to wait until it happens
• 09/14/11: Defending -- and strengthening -- gung ho collectivism
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• 09/08/11: Obama just keeps destroying jobs
• 09/06/11: Ultra-feminists thwarting justice
• 08/31/11: Corporations are people? Yes, Count the ways
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• 08/15/11: Balanced budget amendment unbalanced idea
• 08/10/11: Kerry's war on citizen speech
• 08/05/11: Upside to the compromise leaving the door open for obnoxious maneuvers
• 08/03/11: The people who may save America
• 07/29/11: On making deals, Obama is no LBJ
• 07/27/11: The threat behind the debt
• 07/23/11: Mean opposition to means-testing
• 07/20/11: Leftist babble makes debt crisis even worse
• 07/18/11: Time to raise demagoguery ceiling
• 07/13/11: Obama treating treaties badly
• 07/08/11: Is decline of U.S. exaggerated?
• 07/05/11: Not math deficiency, but demagoguery
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