The past weeks have seen so much chatter about Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s top dog, buying the Washington Post newspaper. On the shrill side, folks are claiming he’ll use the paper to cement Amazon’s position in the halls of the White House. The warm-and-fuzzy side points out that since Bezos (not Amazon) bought the paper, perhaps he’s interested in shoring up a venerable institution that serves the public good.
Of course it’s far too early to tell. But this purchase is part of a trend. Over the past months, many independently wealthy individuals have purchased some of the country’s top newspapers. Many of these purchases turn the newspapers private.
That’s a critical element. Whenever a company goes private, it is no longer chained by law to focus on shareholder profit. Newspapers have always been a true community service. Yes, they need to make money and yes, they carry advertisements. But the content has always been based on a specific set of interests. Even papers that put out national editions provide content that has a particular flavor for a particular subscriber base.
Considering this recent shift, newspapers might actually be on the mend.