Washington Post sold to libertarian?

Twitter is alive – oops yes, I suppose that opener is news in itself given the troubled time it has had – but Twitter is indeed alive and it is alive with the excitment of a big name newspaper The Washington Post being sold to Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and Blue Origin. Think Scotland’s Alex Massie put’s it into context:

“Investing” in journalism is an expensive business with no guarantee of reward in an era of frayed customer loyalty. It is something for which it is easy to call when it isn’t your money being risked but rather harder to deliver when it is. And so the industry hunkers down, trying to do “more with less” while hoping for a miracle. That is, for some deep-pocketed benefactor.

© Jez S via Wikipedia

© Jez S via Wikipedia

This trend to “philanthropic” journalism as Alex put’s it, means that the new owner is in a position of some influence over the newspaper, and unlike TV newspapers are traditionally an overtly ideological choice. So Jeff’s views are important. A 2012 a Seattle Times article bemoaned Amazon’s lack of philanthropic output, but recognises the Bezos family’s organised philanthropy and makes a polical diagnosis for Mr Bezos:

In 1994, he was working for a New York City hedge fund when he learned about the rapid growth in Internet use and quit his well-paying job to start Amazon in a small Bellevue house. Under a then-new U.S. Supreme Court ruling, online retailers don’t have to collect sales taxes in states where they lack a physical presence, so Washington’s small population appealed to him.

He wanted a majority of his customers to not have to pay sales tax,” said early Amazon investor Nick Hanauer, co-founder of Seattle venture-capital firm Second Avenue Partners.

Hanauer and others who know Bezos describe him as a libertarian. In 2010, Bezos contributed $100,000 to help defeat Initiative 1098, which sought to impose a state income tax on Washington’s wealthiest residents.

“There’s almost nothing I could have predicted with more precision than that Jeff would hate the idea,” said Hanauer, an advocate for I-1098. “He’s a libertarian, and I am not.”

Unlike Amazon, Bezos and family members have begun to make large, high-profile personal donations.

So here we have a newspaper proprietor that declines to spend company money on non-commercial activity, that is entrepreneurial, likes to legally avoid tax, invests in space, and is accused of being a libertarian. This is, I think, very good news.

UPDATES: The “Columbia” Journalism Review is also thinking Bezos is libertarian, Bruce Cat on Facebook suggests he might have fought harder in the fight over WikiLeaks. A question: does Bezos have to be a purist (or whatever) for this to be good news?


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