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The Washington Post finds itself in the middle of Jeff Bezos Story



Jeff Bezos says owning the Washington Post is a "complexifier" for him. The newspaper can say the same about him.

The paper has blossomed under Mr. Bezos ownership. Since purchasing the newspaper for $ 250 million in 2013, Posten has added over 200 people to its press room, now numbering 900 journalists, and won pledges and awards to cover, among other things, the Trump Administration topics. The paper has over 1.5 million digital subscribers, and the business has been profitable for the past three years.

But the newsroom went into difficult editorial terrain last week when it became a factor in an apparent blackmail attempt against Mr. Bezos, while

Drama contained a lithium of classic tabloid elements that would challenge any press room – a marriage-busting affair documented by The National Enquirer, Hollywood agents tied to political figures, secret rendezvous at high-end hotels and sexting – let alone an owner sitting in the middle of the controversy.

There was also a strong reminder that Mr. Bezos is a very public figure with great wealth and influence. He is the world's richest person by his command of Amazon, a company that is moving further and further into everyday life, either through e-commerce, entertainment or many stores around the country using hundreds of thousands.

His personal project, Blue Origin, describes his mission as "building a road to space so that our children can build the future".

With his blog post about his blackmail attack last week, Mr. . Bezos has now also become a prominent commentator on the first change. He said he is fighting back against alleged tactics that have no business in journalism, while The Enquirer claims he is just trying to crush a publication because its coverage is embarrassing him.

Posten's editorial page obviously pages with the owner. Friday the day after Bezos published his blog post, the paper published an editorial award for him to reveal a "treacherous model of scary and corruption that masks as journalism."

The general situation will "test both Marty Baron and Jeff Bezos," Kyle Pope, editor and publisher of The Columbia Journalism Review, said in an email, referring to the post's editor-in-chief. Mr. Bezos gets "good marks so far," Pope said, but "the truth is that journalism's rules are not baked in his bones; it's something he must learn, at a very stressful and trying time."

Mr. Bezos did not respond to a request for comment.

The Washington Post refused to make Mr. Baron available for an interview, but the paper gave him a statement.

"Jeff has never been involved in our reporting or our latest stories," he said. "People think it must be difficult to cover Jeff and Amazon. But we've been in possession for five and a half years and he hasn't even intervened in any way."

The clash between Mr. Bezos and The Enquirer began last month when the tabloid published an exhibition of his extramarital affair with the TV personality Lauren Sanchez. Mr. Bezos fought back in his remarkably revealing blog post on Medium, the open platform online. He accused David J. Pecker, the chairman of The Enquirer's parent company, American Media Inc., threatened by intermediaries to publish graphic images of Mr. Bezos if he did not announce that The Enquirer reported on his affair, not was politically motivated.

Posten has traditionally focused on the nation's capital, with not so many resources devoted to business coverage. It has started to change. The post had previously said it would almost double the number of journalists devoted to covering Silicon Valley to 25, including a reporter in Seattle who will focus on Amazon.

It also aggressively followed the revelation of Mr. Bezo's privacy.

Posten published a long article on February 5 on The Enquirer's coverage of Mr. Bezos' affair. It quoted Gavin de Becker, his long-term security head, saying that the leak of evidence that Mr. Bezos "adultery to The Enquirer was" politically motivated, "designed to scare Mr. Bezos because he owns the Post. Mr. De Becker added that the effort could also involve characters from President Trump's campaign.

Email from American Media that Mr. Bezos included in his blog post referred to the Post article and requested that he – and the newspaper – refrain from any statements or suggestions that the policy played a role in the coverage of his affair with wife Sanchez.

Like other newspapers, including The New York Times, the front cover ran articles on Mr. Bezos and American Media Friday and Saturday. They were not the only articles about his interests. The paper also published a report on the Amazon's potential withdrawal from the agreement to build a headquarters in New York City, as well as one on a lawsuit filed against Amazon by director Woody Allen, who said his streaming service mistakenly supported a four-film deal with him.

"I think they have finally woken up to the owner being a great story," said Mr. Pope, who has criticized the paper's earlier coverage of Amazon as anemic. With the fight between Mr. Bezos and American Media, he said, "They've moved into a suitably higher equipment."

Mr. Baron said the paper had not changed its approach to the coverage of Mr. Bezos or his business interests. Mr. Baron has said that he, along with other leaders, speaks to Mr. Bezos about "strategy" every other week or so, but that the discussions do not affect paper coverage. Mr. Bezos owns the post separately from Amazon.

"Because I know well that he will not interfere, it is not very difficult to cover him and Amazon at all," Baron said in his statement. "In all the years of his ownership there has been no report of his executive influence, explicit or implicit, on our coverage."

Frederick J. Ryan Jr., the publisher and general manager of the post, echoed the sentiments of a statement, saying that Mr. Bezos had not played a role in the editorials who praised their blog post.

"Jeff has always made it clear that he expects the Washington Post to act with complete independence, both in our news coverage and editorials, and treat him and his companies just as we would anyone else," Ryan wrote. "We never woven from that position."

Donald Graham, whose family had owned the post for nearly 80 years before selling it to Mr. Bezos, said he was "happy" by the editorial staff. "I agree with every word in it," he said in an email.

He added, "Had they not been edited, perhaps The Times would do a piece about the absence of such an editorial and what did it mean?"


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