Jeff Bezos says proudly owning The Washington Publish is a “complexifier” for him. The newspaper might say the identical about him.
The paper has flourished beneath Mr. Bezos’ possession. Since he purchased the newspaper in 2013 for $250 million, The Publish has added over 200 folks to its newsroom, which now numbers 900 journalists, and received plaudits and awards for its protection of, amongst different topics, the Trump administration. The paper has greater than 1.5 million digital subscribers, and the enterprise has been worthwhile for the previous three years.
However the newsroom entered difficult editorial terrain final week when it turned a think about an obvious extortion try in opposition to Mr. Bezos, whereas additionally having to independently cowl the occasions round its proprietor.
The drama featured a litany of traditional tabloid components that might problem any newsroom — a marriage-busting affair documented by The Nationwide Enquirer, Hollywood brokers with ties to political figures, secret rendezvous at high-end accommodations and sexting — not to mention one whose proprietor sits on the heart of the controversy.
It was additionally a stark reminder that Mr. Bezos is a really public determine of nice wealth and affect. He’s the world’s richest particular person by dint of his command of Amazon, an organization that’s reaching additional and additional into the lives of on a regular basis folks, whether or not via its e-commerce enterprise, its leisure properties or its quite a few warehouses across the nation that make use of a whole bunch of hundreds.
His private undertaking, Blue Origin, describes its mission as “constructing a street to area so our youngsters can construct the longer term.”
With his weblog put up detailing his extortion allegations final week, Mr. Bezos has now additionally change into a outstanding commentator on the First Modification. He stated he was preventing again in opposition to alleged techniques that don’t have any enterprise in journalism, whereas The Enquirer claims he’s merely making an attempt to muzzle a publication as a result of its protection embarrassed him.
The editorial web page of The Publish clearly sides with its proprietor. On Friday, the day after Mr. Bezos revealed his weblog put up, the paper revealed an editorial praising him for exposing an “insidious mannequin of intimidation and corruption masquerading as journalism.”
The general state of affairs will “check each Marty Baron and Jeff Bezos,” Kyle Pope, the editor and writer of The Columbia Journalism Evaluate, stated in an e-mail, referring to The Publish’s govt editor. Mr. Bezos will get “good marks thus far,” Mr. Pope stated, however “the reality is that the principles of journalism aren’t baked into his bones; it’s one thing he’s going to must study, at a really tense and making an attempt time.”
Mr. Bezos didn’t reply to a request for remark.
The Washington Publish declined to make Mr. Baron out there for an interview however the paper did present an announcement from him.
“Jeff has by no means gotten concerned in our reporting or our last tales,” he stated. “Individuals surmise that it should be tough to cowl Jeff and Amazon. However we’ve gone 5 and a half years along with his possession, and he hasn’t as soon as intervened in any manner.”
The conflict between Mr. Bezos and The Enquirer started final month when the tabloid revealed an exposé of his extramarital affair with the tv persona Lauren Sanchez. Mr. Bezos fought again in his remarkably revealing weblog put up on Medium, the web open platform. He accused David J. Pecker, the chairman of The Enquirer’s mum or dad firm, American Media Inc., of threatening via intermediaries to publish graphic images of Mr. Bezos if he didn’t publicly announce that The Enquirer’s reporting on his affair was not politically motivated.
The Publish has historically centered on the nation’s capital, with not as many sources dedicated to enterprise protection. That has began to alter. The Publish had beforehand stated it could practically double the variety of journalists dedicated to masking Silicon Valley to 25, together with a reporter in Seattle who will deal with Amazon.
It additionally aggressively adopted up on the revelation about Mr. Bezos’ personal life.
The Publish revealed a prolonged article on Feb. 5 about The Enquirer’s protection of Mr. Bezos’ affair. It quoted Gavin de Becker, his longtime safety chief, as saying the leak of proof of Mr. Bezos’ infidelity to The Enquirer was “politically motivated,” designed to embarrass Mr. Bezos as a result of he owns The Publish. Mr. de Becker added that the trouble might additionally contain figures from President Trump’s marketing campaign.
Emails from American Media that Mr. Bezos included in his weblog put up referred to the Publish article and demanded that he — and the newspaper — chorus from any statements or recommendations that politics performed any half in its protection of his affair with Ms. Sanchez.
Like different newspapers, together with The New York Occasions, The Publish ran front-page articles on Mr. Bezos and American Media on Friday and Saturday. These weren’t the one articles about his pursuits. The paper additionally revealed a report about Amazon’s doubtlessly pulling out of its settlement to construct a headquarters in New York Metropolis, in addition to one a couple of lawsuit filed in opposition to Amazon by the director Woody Allen, who stated its streaming service had improperly backed out of a four-movie take care of him.
“I feel they’ve lastly woken as much as the truth that their proprietor is a big story,” stated Mr. Pope, who has criticized the paper’s previous protection of Amazon as anemic. With the struggle between Mr. Bezos and American Media, he stated, “they’ve moved into an appropriately larger gear.”
Mr. Baron stated the paper had not modified its method to its protection of Mr. Bezos or his enterprise pursuits. Mr. Baron has stated that he, together with different executives, talks with Mr. Bezos about “technique” each two weeks or so, however that the discussions don’t contact on the paper’s protection. Mr. Bezos owns The Publish individually from Amazon.
“As a result of I do know full properly that he received’t intrude, it’s probably not tough to cowl him and Amazon in any respect,” Mr. Baron stated in his assertion. “In all of the years of his possession, there hasn’t been one report of his exerting affect, explicitly or implicitly, on our protection.”
Frederick J. Ryan Jr., the writer and chief govt of The Publish, echoed these sentiments in an announcement, and stated Mr. Bezos had performed no half within the editorial that praised his weblog put up.
“Jeff has at all times made it clear that he expects The Washington Publish will act with full independence, each in our information protection and editorials, and deal with him and his firms simply as we might anybody else,” Mr. Ryan wrote. “Now we have by no means wavered from that place.”
Donald Graham, whose household had owned The Publish for nearly 80 years earlier than he offered it to Mr. Bezos, stated he was “delighted” by the editorial. “I agree with each phrase of it,” he stated in an e-mail.
He added, “Had they not editorialized, maybe The Occasions could be doing a bit concerning the absence of such an editorial and what did that imply?”
Invoice Grueskin, a Columbia College journalism professor and a former editor at The Wall Avenue Journal, stated it ought to have been made clearer to readers that Mr. Bezos had nothing to do with the editorial.
“Readers should know whether or not Bezos knew concerning the editorial prematurely, or in any manner contributed to discussions that led to it,” he stated.
To indicate that the newspaper stays impartial of its proprietor, The Publish pointed to a different editorial, from early final 12 months. That editorial warned that cities ought to “proceed with warning, with their eyes not less than as extensive open as their wallets,” when bidding to be a location for Amazon’s second headquarters.
That has now change into a serious hometown story. Amazon lately introduced that it could construct a headquarters in close by Arlington, Va., which means it will likely be one of many largest employers within the area.