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A Few Unsolicited Suggestions to Jeff Bezos, New Owner of the Washington Post


First, the big news:

The Washington Post Co. has agreed to sell its flagship newspaper to Amazon.com founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos, ending the Graham family’s stewardship of one of America’s leading news organizations after four generations.

Bezos, whose entrepreneurship has made him one of the world’s richest men, will pay $250 million in cash for The Post and affiliated publications to the Washington Post Co., which owns the newspaper and other businesses.

Wow, that is big news. And hopefully GOOD news, because as you might have noticed, I haven’t exactly been a big fan of the Post for a long time now. I particularly haven’t appreciated its increasingly right-leaning editorial page, its cowardly insistence on false equivalency (e.g., giving climate science deniers a say in almost every article on climate change) in its supposedly “objective” reporting, its overall pro-corporate (and increasingly conservative) tilt, its decreased coverage of Virginia politics (although Rosalind Helderman has certainly done a great job on the McDonnell/Star Scientific/”Chefgate” story), its tolerance for climate science deniers among its op-ed writers, its almost complete lack of coverage on environmental issues like climate change, etc., etc. Anyway, I’m overall very happy to see the ownership changing, and hope that means significant changes to a dying newspaper (e.g., circulation down from 752k per day in 2005 to about 448k per day in 2013). Because, bottom line, we NEED strong, thriving, serious journalism in this country, and certainly in the nation’s capital!

With that, here are a few unsolicited suggestions for Jeff Bezos, just for starters. Feel free to add your own in the comments section. Thanks.

*Immediately fire anyone who denies climate science or outright lies in the Post editorial pages. That means, yes, bye bye George Will, Charles Krauthammer and Marc Thiessen. Replace them with reality-based conservative commentators, if you can find any. While we’re on this topic, send your reporters to training in science, first and foremost climate science. If that doesn’t work fire them and hire some new ones who understand this stuff.

*Axe Jennifer Rubin ASAP. She is a total hack, not in any way a “journalist,” and a disgrace to this once-great newspaper. Of course, she DOES draw (beady) eyeballs to the online “paper,” and that’s the challenge: how to increase online readership without completely compromising the quality of the newspaper.

*Figure out how to interact with blogs and other new media (e.g., ArlNow). The Post can start by first and foremost not plagiarizing/stealing their content, second by giving new media (and even old media!) proper credit and attribution for their ideas, scoops, etc.

*Fix the comments section or eliminate it. Right now, as one commenter (ironically?) notes, “Perhaps now we can have the comment boards moderated and get rid of the thousands of useless, ignorant, hate filled comments.” Truly, it is a troll fest – bigotry, ad hominem attacks run amok, just insane. Compare that to the NY Times comments section, where, as another commenter points out: “readers tend to be far more literate and thoughtful in their remarks while those found on The Post’s website appear to be hateful, thoughtless remarks made by people with limited abilities to think and/or express themselves.”

*Totally revamp the Sunday magazine. I was at the gym today and somebody left the NY Times Sunday magazine, so I was reading it. I mean, seriously, that thing is about a gazillion times better than the Post’s Sunday vehicle for “Date Lab,” a restaurant review, and the crossword puzzle. Get serious with this, or get rid of it.

*Beef up local coverage, including serious coverage (e.g., not just horse race stuff) of Virginia politics. As I pointed out last December, it’s been on a downward spiral for a few years now…

*It’s long, LOOOOONG past time to get someone new to write the Post’s Virginia political endorsements. Long-time international correspondent Lee Hockstader, who’s been writing these endorsements under the Post’s name at least since 2006 (when he endorsed corporate lobbyist Harris Miller over Jim Webb), knows little if anything about Virginia politics and should be replaced by someone who actually knows what he or she is doing.

*Get someone like Nate Silver who understands quantitative analysis, polling, statistics, math, etc. It would really help avoid ridiculous “reporting” as happened in the 2012 Obama-Romney race, when the Post seemed to buy into the narrative that the race was tightening, that Ohio had flipped to tossup in the closing days, etc. WRONG! Meanwhile, Nate Silver – and others who do what Nate does, it’s not just him! –  consistently nailed it.

P.S. By the way, I checked Jeff Bezos’ Wikipedia entry, and it says he’s a “libertarian” who “donated $2.5 million to pass a same-sex marriage referendum in Washington” and has donated to both the Democratic and Republican parties (although more to the “blue” team).

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