Jeff Bezos says that owning The Washington Post is a "complex" for him. The newspaper could say the same about him.
The paper has flourished under the ownership of Mr. Bezos. Since buying the newspaper in 2013 for $ 250 million, The Post has added more than 200 people to its newsroom, which now has 900 journalists, and won applause and awards for its coverage, among other issues, of the administration of Trump. The paper has more than 1.5 million digital subscribers and the business has been profitable for the past three years.
But the newsroom entered a complicated editorial landscape last week when it became a factor in an apparent extortion attempt against Mr. Bezos, while he also had to independently cover the events surrounding his owner.
The drama featured a litany of classic tabloid elements that would challenge any newsroom, a case of bankruptcy of marriage documented by The National Enquirer, Hollywood agents linked to political figures, secret appointments at high-profile hotels and sexting, and much more. minus one whose owner sits. In the center of the controversy.
It was also a clear reminder that Mr. Bezos is a very public figure of great wealth and influence. He is the richest person in the world thanks to his dominance of Amazon, a company that is reaching more and more into the lives of ordinary people, whether through its e-commerce business, its entertainment properties or its numerous stores in all the country that employ hundreds. of thousands.
His personal project, Blue Origin, describes his mission as "building a path to space so that our children can build the future."
With The publication of his blog detailing his extortion allegations last week, Mr. Bezos has also become a leading First Amendment commentator. He said he was fighting against alleged tactics that have nothing to do with journalism, while The Enquirer claims that he is simply trying to muzzle a publication because his coverage embarrassed him.
The Post's editorial page is clearly on its owner's side. On Friday, a day after Mr. Bezos published his blog, the newspaper published an editorial praising him for exposing an "insidious model of intimidation and corruption disguised as journalism."
The overall situation "will put both Marty Baron and Jeff Bezos to the test," Kyle Pope, editor and editor of The Columbia Journalism Review, said in an email, referring to The Post's executive editor. Mr. Bezos receives "good grades so far," Mr. Pope said, but "the truth is that the rules of journalism are not written in his bones, it is something he will have to learn, at a very stressful and difficult time. "
Mr. Bezos did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Barón refused to be interviewed, but offered a statement.
"Jeff has never been involved in our reports or in our final stories," he said. "People surmise that it must be difficult to cover Jeff and Amazon. But we have spent five and a half years with his property, and he has not intervened in any way. "
The clash between Mr. Bezos and The Enquirer began last month when the newspaper published an expose of his extramarital affair with television personality Lauren Sanchez. Mr. Bezos defended himself on his remarkably revealing blog about Medium, the online platform open. He accused David J. Pecker, president of the parent company of The Enquirer, American Media Inc., threatened through intermediaries with the publication of graphic photographs of Mr. Bezos if he did not publicly announce that The Enquirer's reports about his adventure had no motivation. policies
The Post has traditionally focused on the nation's capital, with not so many resources dedicated to business coverage. That has begun to change. The Post had previously said it would almost double the number of journalists dedicated to covering Silicon Valley to 25, including a reporter in Seattle who will focus on Amazon.
He also made an aggressive follow-up of the revelation about Mr. Bezos' private life.
The Post published an extensive article on February 5 about The Enquirer's coverage of Mr. Bezos' case. He quoted Gavin de Becker, his security chief for a long time, saying that the leak of evidence of Mr. Bezos' infidelity to The Enquirer was "politically motivated", designed to embarrass Mr. Bezos because he is the owner of Post Mr. de Becker added that the effort could also involve figures from President Trump's campaign.
The American Media emails that Mr. Bezos included in his blog post referred to the Post article and demanded that he, and the newspaper, refrain from any statement or suggestion that the policy played any role in the coverage. of his relationship with Ms. Sánchez.
Like other newspapers, including The New York Times, The Post published cover articles on Bezos and American Media on Friday and Saturday. Those were not the only articles about their interests. The newspaper also published a report on the possibility that Amazon withdraw from its agreement to build a headquarters in New York City, as well as another on a lawsuit filed against Amazon by director Woody Allen, who said his service Sequence transmission was not successful. Agreement of four films with him.
"I think they've finally realized that their owner is a great story," said Mr. Pope, who criticized Amazon's past coverage as anemic. With the fight between Mr. Bezos and the American media, he said, "they have moved in an appropriately higher march."
Mr. Baron said that the newspaper had not changed its focus on Mr. Bezos' coverage or his commercial interests. Mr. baron He has said that he talks to Mr. Bezos about the "strategy" approximately every two weeks, but that the discussions do not touch the newspaper's coverage. Mr. Bezos owns The Post separately from Amazon.
"Because I know very well that it will not interfere, it's not really difficult to cover him and Amazon at all," Mr. Baron said in his statement. "In all the years of your ownership, there has not been a single report of your influence, explicitly or implicitly, in our coverage."
Frederick J. Ryan Jr., the editor and executive director of The Post, echoed those sentiments in a statement and said that Bezos had not participated in the editorial that praised the publication of his blog.
"Jeff has always made it clear that he expects The Washington Post to act with complete independence, both in our news coverage and in our editorials, and will treat him and his companies as we would treat anyone else," Mr. Ryan. "We have never hesitated from that position."
Donald Graham, whose family had owned The Post for almost 80 years before selling it to Mr. Bezos, said he was "delighted" by the publisher. "I agree with every word," he said in an email.
He added: "If they had not published an editorial, maybe The Times would be doing an article about the absence of such an editorial and what did that mean?"
Bill Grueskin, a journalism professor at Columbia University and a former editor of The Wall Street Journal, said readers should have made it clear that Bezos had nothing to do with the publisher.
"The readers deserve to know if Bezos knew the editorial in advance or contributed in any way to the discussions that led him to do so," he said.
To demonstrate that the newspaper remains independent of its owner, The Post pointed to another editorial, from At the beginning of last year. That editorial warned that cities should "proceed with caution, with eyes at least as open as their wallets", when it proposes to be a place for Amazon's second headquarters.
That now has become an important story of the hometown. Amazon recently announced that it will build a headquarters in the vicinity of Arlington, Virginia, which means it will be one of the largest employers in the region.