By these trend lines, the physical newspaper, which is still the industry’s main revenue source, is headed for history’s dustbin or, if not that, to boutique status. Forbes puts Bezos’s net worth at $25 billion. Graham argues that only someone like Bezos has the wealth, patience, technological aptitude and regard for newspapers’ importance to guide The Post from its storied past to a successful future. I confess that this argument initially seemed weak until my 26-year-old son called to see how I was holding up. Though commiserating with me, his message was: Hey, this could be good for The Post.
For years, The Post enjoyed a quasi-monopoly of largely captive readers and advertisers. Now it faces the Internet’s Darwinian hyper-competition. In text and video come torrents of news, information, analysis, advocacy, comedy and criticism. People do not lack for things to read, but the quality is spotty and often unreliable. Good journalism, though hardly perfect, strives to discredit misinformation and half-truths. Papers such as The Post contribute to a free society by undertaking the expensive reporting that others won’t — and which informs us of who we are.
But it’s not free. It rests on editorial independence — the ability to pursue stories no matter how inconvenient — and commercial success. Someone has to pay the bills. Bezos’s task is to respect editorial independence and restore its economic base. He has defied naysayers before. Maybe he will again. Good luck.