Despite my reluctance to further enrich Jeff Bezos even in a small way, I recently subscribed to the Washington Post.
Esteemed sports columnist Thomas Boswell's retirement leaves a void, but sports columnist Sally Jenkins, book critic Michael Dirda and political columnist Eugene Robinson have been daily delights. Sports columnist John Feinstein also appears from time to time.
Bezos took a direct hand in the selection and hiring of new Washington Post editor Sally Buzbee, according to an article by Andrew Beaujon in the Washingtonian.
The Amazon founder and richest man in the world has big ambitions for the newspaper known for breaking the Watergate scandal. With the recruitment of Buzbee from the top leadership position at the Associated Press, Bezos wants to make the Post the global leader in news.
Buzbee, an ardent supporter of investigative reporting at the AP, seeks to build upon the Post's resurgence under predecessor Marty Baron. Under Baron, the Post boosted online subscriptions and advertising, restoring the media company to solid profitability.
Under Bezos' direction, the Post will boost its overseas staff and challenge international media companies like the Guardian and Financial Times as well as raising the stakes against American competitors The New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
Bezos' direct interest in the Post is surprising; he pretty much gave Baron a free hand. Baron was hired before Bezos bought the Post from the Graham family, who failed to prepare their prestigious property for the online media era and saw advertising and readership plummet.
Staying away from editorial direction, Bezos invested heavily in engineering staff and technical improvements, and the Post followed The Times in charging for online subscriptions. Now, Buzbee might be more answerable to Bezos and publisher Fred Ryan, who also played a major role in her hiring.
The Washingtonian article makes Bezos appear as more of a William Randolph Hearst-type media tycoon than previously believed. With Bezos' global dreams for the Post, a Citizen Kane sequel might follow.