Dear Mr. Bezos: Don’t Listen to the Journalists


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An open letter by Washington Post columnist by Gene Weingarten called “Open Letter to Jeff Bezos” is grabbing a lot of attention on industry blogs and in social media circles in the wake of the Post‘s sale to Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos.

It’s worth a read simply because it is an excellent illustration of just how out of touch the average journalist is to what is happening not only to the newspaper business, but to the business of “news.”

Weingarten – in a rather lofty and snarky manner – offers his “advice” on how Bezos should manage the Post.

Basically, it boils down to Bezos letting the journalists run the operations like they always have.

This, of course, ignores one important fact: That the journalists failed.

That they no longer know how to run their operations.

The journalists have brought their industry to the verge of collapse (and for all intents and purposes have already killed it).

It’s not all their fault. No doubt the newspaper business has faced many challenges in the last couple of decades, mainly from the Internet. But, so far at least, the leadership of our nation’s newspapers has failed spectacularly in trying to come up with solutions.

Weingarten had high praise for the previous owners of the Post (the Graham family), but it may have slipped his mind that the family is responsible for running the enterprise into the ground.

The Washington Post is in shambles.

How bad is it?

Pretty bad:

  • Half its paid subscribers have bailed since the mid-1990s
  • It is on pace to lose $60 million in 2013
  • It has had several recent lay-offs, including about 50 people in February

The idea that Jeff Bezos would buy the Post to let the journalists keep running it into the ground would be quite of funny if Weingarten and his ilk weren’t so dead serious about it.

Here’s a newsflash: The newspaper of yesterday aren’t coming back. The era is over. Like all eras, it takes a long time to finally come a complete end (heck there are still people using fax machines). Newspapers will need a complete reinvention if they are to survive.

So if Jeff Bezos wants to save the newspapers, here’s my advice to him: “Don’t listen to the journalists.”

Links:

Gene Weingarten’s column “Open Letter to Jeff Bezos”

Esquire’s response to Wingarten’s column

The Amazon Post Or Why Print Was Already Dead

6 Responses to “Dear Mr. Bezos: Don’t Listen to the Journalists”

  1. An excellent (and elegant) analysis of both dinosaurs. Thank you and well done.

  2. Sorry, Mike, you’re a journalist and I’m not going to listen to you. :-)

  3. My only hope is that the end of news as we know it is a result of the quickening pace of society, and not simply the mark of a culture who no longer values true intelligence, and prefers constant stimulation instead. I’m terribly afraid and equally certain that it is the latter. If so, any man who seeks to be something more will be outcasted, and any man who settles to be something less will be glorified. Those are not the ingredients to a strong civilization, those are the warning signs of a country in decay.

  4. Hi McWattY9:
    I tend to think it is a mix of both, but unfortunately, more to the latter than the former.

  5. George, I think you’re wildly off the mark with one comment: “The journalists have brought their industry to the verge of collapse (and for all intents and purposes have already killed it)”.

    The journalists didn’t. The journalists showed up day after day and did what was asked of them in many cases – get the stories – the death of modern journalism is down to, yes, some poor leadership (not always journalists) but more importantly the complete and utter failure of the advertising teams to bring in new models and forms of revenue.

  6. Hi Craig:
    I was using “journalists” as people who work for and run newspapers, not specific to the “reporters” or “editors” but the collective. So point taken if that didn’t come across as clear.

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