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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Washington Post’s Top Editor Optimistic About Sale

A visitor views the front page of the Washington Post, displayed outside the Newseum in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, a day after it was announced that Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250 million. (Evan Vucci/AP)

A visitor views the front page of the Washington Post, displayed outside the Newseum in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2013, a day after it was announced that Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250 million. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos has bought The Washington Post with $250 million of his own money.

Marty Baron is executive editor of The Washington Post. (Boston Globe)

Marty Baron is executive editor of The Washington Post. (Boston Globe)

News of the purchase shocked many who thought the Graham family would never sell the newspaper.

In a letter to employees, Bezos said he would be keeping his “day job” at Amazon, and his life in “the other Washington,” where Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle are based.

But his ownership will surely mean big changes at the Post.

In an interview with Here & Now, Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron said employees are optimistic about what Bezos can bring to the Post.

Interview Highlights: Marty Baron

How are people in the newsroom are feeling a day later?

“I think, you know, there’s a certain wistfulness for the Graham era, and certainly a lot of admiration for the family stewardship of the paper over the last 80 years. But also, there’s a lot of anticipation and I think excitement about the possibilities that this opens up. You know, if we’re going to get a new owner, I think a lot of people think there couldn’t be a better one.”

Do you have a sense of why Jeff Bezos wants to own the paper?

“I’m the wrong person to answer that. But this is a newspaper, this is a news organization, I should say. I don’t even like to call it a paper anymore. We’re so much involved in what’s happening on the web and in mobile and in all of that. But this is a news organization that has played a defining role in American politics, policy, media. It is one of the great names in journalism and it’s an extraordinary brand, and those don’t come along every day.”

What do you think that Bezos can bring to the Post?

“This is a guy that knows a lot about things that we’re supposed to be thinking about. We are thinking a lot about them. There are a lot of extraordinary challenges that we face. He’s been able to overcome the kinds of challenges that he’s faced in his own business. He’s defied skeptics on Wall Street and elsewhere. And he’s a risk taker, he’s a long term thinker. And that’s a big plus for us.”

Has digital advertising been a problem for the Post, and do think Bezos can help with that?

“We’re actually showing good growth in digital advertising this year. We’ve been quite happy with the growth we’ve seen this year. So I’m sure that he can help across the entire array of issues that we face. He’s an extraordinary business man, a great entrepreneur and innovator — someone who has disrupted other businesses. We’re a business that has been disrupted. I think it’ll be nice to have somebody who knows how to disrupt other people and other businesses.”

What about conflicts of interest?

“He’s committed totally to editorial independence — he said that. I believe him. Any owner would pose some conflicts. I would say there are relatively few in this instance. You know The Washington Post company today, our parent company, has interests in things other than this news organization. It owns an education company, it has cable interests, it has broadcast stations, it has industrial companies in it’s umbrella. So you know, there are always some potential conflicts. What you want to do is minimize those, and I would say there are very few potential conflicts here.”

Is the editorial page going to change?

“You know I have nothing to do with the editorial page. I oversee our news and features coverage. We keep a strict separation between the news side and the editorial page, the opinion pages. But as was stated yesterday, the editorial page editor, Fred Hyatt, was asked to stay on. And I don’t anticipate any changes.”

Guest

  • Marty Baron, executive editor of The Washingon Post. He was editor of The Boston Globe from 2001 until the beginning of 2013. He tweets @PostBaron.

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