When the news broke that Jeff Bezos had taken over the Washington Post, a lot of questions were raised. Did the man have a political agenda? Was it just a financial investment too clever for the rest of us to see? Opinions were flying on both sides of the aisle. This week Bezos made a move, and it looks like a significant one. The old publisher of WaPo, Katharine Weymouth, was shown the door and replaced with the founding editor of Politico, Frederick J. Ryan Jr.
“I don’t think there’s a better place to be in journalism than The Washington Post,” Ryan told his staff, according to Post media reporter Erik Wemple.
Ryan reportedly would not discuss any of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that led to his appointment.
While he was hesitant to divulge specific battle plans, Ryan pressed the importance of “winning the morning” by becoming the go-to source for political news and a look at the day ahead.
An interesting thing to note about Politico’s top dog, no matter the site’s ideological reputation, is that he served as Assistant to the President under Ronald Reagan and went on to take charge of the establishment and operation of Reagan’s Century City office, as well as working on the creation of the Reagan Library. So does this mean that the Post is set for – as the song in Rocky Horror went – just a step to the Right? Powerline doesn’t see that happening.
Should liberals worry that Ryan’s selection as publisher of the Post signals less leftism in the paper’s news coverage and less liberalism in it editorial page? I don’t think so.
Ryan co-founded Politico, which is about as reliably left-leaning as the Post. Moreover, those who have worked with various media companies owned by Ryan’s corporation say he’s a businessman above all else, and not one to attempt to influence the direction of coverage or editorial policy.
The Post depends on an overwhelmingly leftist readership, namely the inhabitants of Washington DC and its suburbs. It would be bad for business to disappoint that crowd, many of whose members already find their patience stretched by the Post’s generally responsibly liberal editorial page.
The Washington Post is a business and it only survives if it turns a profit. Ryan seems to be a businessman above all else. I think Powerline’s Mirengoff is on point here, noting that he will seek to make the business profitable. There are already Right leaning publications in DC keeping afloat (barely, in a largely liberal enclave) and the WaPo doesn’t need to compete with them. When push comes to shove, it seems a safe bet that Ryan will continue to deliver what the customers are buying.
Of course, I’d be happy to be proven wrong. Time will tell.