The Washington Post Is Independent of Amazon? Not in the Real World.

Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos.

The Washington Post’s Marc Fisher has a long page one piece today throwing cold water on President Trump’s recent attacks on Jeff Bezos, Amazon, and the Post. From the story:

“The president has criticized Bezos at least four times over the past week, accusing him of running a company that fails to pay its share of taxes and takes undue advantage of the struggling U.S. Postal Service, and claiming that Bezos uses the news organization he owns—this one—to advance his own interests.

“Aboard Air Force One on Thursday evening, Trump told reporters that ‘Amazon is just not on an even playing field. You know, they have a tremendous lobbying effort, in addition to having The Washington Post, which is, as far as I’m concerned, another lobbyist….'”

“Trump appears to view ownership of a newspaper as a way to assert influence,” said Frederick J. Ryan Jr., The Post’s chief executive and publisher. “Jeff sees the value of a strong, independent press. Jeff has never proposed a story. Jeff has never intervened in a story. He’s never critiqued a story. He’s not directed or proposed editorials or endorsements. The decisions are made here.”

Staffers at the Post resumed tweeting reminders that Bezos as an individual owns the Washington Post, not Amazon. From Philip Rucker, the Post’s White House bureau chief: “WaPo editor @PostBaron sets the record straight: The Post is independent of Amazon and Trump’s claim to the contrary is ‘completely made up.'”

While the Post’s reporters and its many columnists have relentlessly attacked President Trump, the idea that the attacks, as President Trump claims, are part of a Bezos effort to help Amazon is very unproven.

That said, the idea that the Post is independent of Amazon is not true on the business side of the newspaper. Bezos and Amazon have aggressively helped the Post grow its digital circulation, the future of journalism.

Go to Amazon Prime, the Bezos engine to dominate the world, and you can get a Washington Post digital subscription free for six months, then $3.99 a month.

Want a New York Times digital subscription through Amazon Prime? It offers a New York Times subscription on an Amazon Kindle free for 30 days, then $19.99 a month. That’s more expensive than a Times digital subscription if you go directly to the Times ($9.99 a month the first year, then $15.99 a month).

The Post is independent of Amazon, as its White House bureau chief claims? No, on the business side Bezos and Amazon Prime, with its almost 100 million members, are very effectively helping the Post in its drive to become the world’s dominant digital newspaper.

On a smaller scale, now that Amazon owns the Whole Foods chain, readers are seeing more prominent Whole Foods ads in the Post. Bezos is too aggressive and shrewd a businessman not to use Amazon and his other interests to help the Post.

So, yes, that the Washington Post is independent of Amazon on the editorial side seems entirely true. But Amazon has helped the Post’s business side grow, which has helped the newspaper rapidly expand its editorial staff. As the Post said earlier this year, “The news organization has expanded rapidly since the purchase of the paper by Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos in 2013.”

Cynics might suggest that Bezos did not just buy the Washington Post as a $250 million charitable contribution to good journalism. He doesn’t have to dictate to Marty Baron to have his ownership of the Post be one of his weapons to build influence in Congress, the Justice Department, and elsewhere in the nation’s capital.

Also see Jack Shafer’s April 6th Politico piece: “Trump Is Right. It Is the Amazon Washington Post.”

And see an August 2, 2017, post on this website: “The Washington Post, Jeff Bezos, and Amazon: Together How High Can They Fly.”


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