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Ed Driscoll

How the Washington Post was Lost

August 11th, 2013 - 11:43 am

That’s an awfully melodramatic title Ross Douthat or his editor stuck on top of his latest column, considering that the Post will continue in some form. At the very least, Jeff Bezos bought the brand name; and presumably, a fair number of journalists and editors will continue to work there. Particularly since they’ve been given Bob Woodward’s blessing:

This isn’t Rupert Murdoch buying the Wall Street Journal, this is somebody who believes in the values that the Post has been prominent in practicing, and so I don’t see any downside.

In other words, the politics of the Post won’t change, despite the fact that it’s the politics of the Post that destroyed it. (See also: the juiceboxers’ attacks on Woodward himself.)

Douthat writes, “it’s possible to date the moment when that opportunity [to salvage the Post] slipped away: it happened in 2006, when John Harris and Jim VandeHei left The Post to found Politico:”

Now, there are many reasons a publication like Politico was easier to build from scratch than it would have been to create inside a traditional, cost-burdened institution. But that’s also hindsight talking: from the vantage point of 2006, VandeHei and Harris looked like gamblers, and The Post’s grip on what the press critic Jack Shafer called the “political news from Washington” beat still seemed secure.

Today, though, it’s Politico rather than The Post that dominates the D.C. conversation, Politico rather than The Post that’s the must-read for Beltway professionals and politics junkies everywhere, and Politico rather than The Post that matches the metabolism of the Internet.

I say this as someone who doesn’t particularly like the Politico style or the role it plays in our gilded capital, and who misses The Post as it was when I arrived in Washington. But nostalgia is for columnists, not publishers: Politico has claimed a big part of the audience that The Post needed in order to thrive in the world the Internet has made.

That’s why I’m skeptical of the various theories about how The Post’s new genius owner might invent some new way to deliver content or bundle news or otherwise achieve a profitable synergy between his newspaper and Amazon.

Maybe such a synergy exists. But it’s more likely that the best thing Jeff Bezos can offer his paper is more old-fashioned: the money and resources necessary to take back territory lost to a sharp-elbowed competitor.

What Bezos can deliver, in other words, is a newspaper war, with clear and pressing stakes. For The Post to thrive again, Politico must lose.

But whatever happens going forward, unless some sort of dramatic change occurs, the reader will continue to be screwed, no matter who wins.

Related: Elsewhere at PJM, Tom Blumer on “America’s Three Worst Pravda Press Organizations.”

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All Comments   (4)
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I can't believe you could change the Post without changing its culture. I doubt Bezos will even try. Its more likely he bought the paper as a rich outsider trying to become an insider. Not just a rich guy who can manipulate 'players' with his money but a 'player' himself.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Washington being what it is, there are tens of thousands of people in the area who don't give a damn about local news, and only want to know about national politics. That's what Politico gives them, and that's the Post's weakness, as far as what newspapers have to do to survive.

The more outlets there are willing to cover an issue, the less valuable your particular outlet is, because people can get their news from elsewhere. So with Politico and so many other places focusing on Washington's national agenda, the Post becomes non-essential for those who only care about Washington because of national politics. The more local coverage gets, the few competing sources there are for that coverage, but the problem for those at the WaPo is covering stuff like that doesn't stroke your ego the way covering or punditing about the White House and Congress does.

So there's still a niche for the Post. Just not the one the paper's staff wants it to have, and probably not the one Jeff Bezos is thinking about when he decided to buy the paper (though as one of those able control at least part of the online distribution system via the Kindle, Bezos at least as the ability to give the Post a leg up on its competition with those device owners and with Amazon customers).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
LARRY SINCLAIR was a guest on my RADIO SHOW last friday. He told his story of abuse at the hands of Obama Thugs for going public as a WHISTLEBLOWER REGARDING BARACK OBAMAS DRUG USE:
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
My theory, basically the same thing that destroyed the Post will chip away at Politico's influence and income. It is too obviously in the tank for the Democrat Party. It's fine if you want to do that but you have to realize that sooner or later the "other side" stops reading you and whats worse stops talking to you.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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