June 18, 2019

Bezos Is a Hit in a Washington Post Newsroom Visit

Over the course of the day, he gave some indication of the kind of journalism that interested him, answered questions about the Post’s coverage of Amazon and did not disguise his interest at the intersection of his businesses, telling an afternoon meeting that “it should be as easy to get a subscription to The Post as it is to buy diapers on Amazon,” according to one employee who attended the meeting.

The two-day visit was Mr. Bezos’s first trip to The Post since he agreed to buy the paper in early August for $250 million. Before the deal closes in October, Mr. Bezos made the visit to chat with employees from both the business and editorial sides about his plans for the company. By the end of his visit late Wednesday, Mr. Bezos seemed to have won over employees who posted photographs of him, speculated on how many electronic devices he had in his pockets, liberally quoted his thoughts on the news business on social media and gave him the hashtag #bezospalooza.

“He charmed the room of 20 hard-bitten journalists,” said Jeffrey Leen, The Post’s investigations editor, who attended a lunch meeting with Mr. Bezos. “He was a big supporter of investigative reporting, which warmed my heart. He already has a very good grasp of our business. It was, all in all, a very impressive performance.”

Mr. Bezos started the day Wednesday with an hourlong breakfast with Bob Woodward in the ninth-floor publisher’s private dining room, where the two men dined on a fruit plate, poached eggs, spinach, coffee and orange juice. Mr. Woodward said in an e-mail after the meeting that through the breakfast, “Jeff Bezos explained the thinking behind his reasoned and careful step-by-step process in deciding to buy The Post.”

Mr. Woodward added, “I was struck by how wide-ranging and methodical he is. He voiced strong, even intense, optimism about the future of The Post, and I suspect he will be calling on everyone here to pitch in with extra amounts of energy, focus and creativity.”

Mr. Bezos then met for a little more than an hour for coffee with about 20 reporters in a neighboring ninth-floor conference room and talked about how he defined success.

“What’s been happening over the last several years can’t continue to happen,” he said.

Mr. Bezos told reporters that the paper should focus on delivering important, compelling stories to its readers. If it does that, advertisers will come, he said. Several reporters said that message left them upbeat after the meeting, convinced that Mr. Bezos was committed to high-quality journalism.

“You got the feeling that he is not here to just take The Washington Post brand name and turn it into something else,” said one reporter who attended and spoke anonymously. “This is not somebody who is in a panic trying to make a profit for next year. He wants to solve it in a way that will endure for decades.”

For lunch, Mr. Bezos met with senior editors for a buffet of chicken, salmon, salad and cookies. Mr. Bezos mentioned that some of The Post’s recent coverage that he had found especially intriguing included the articles “9 Questions about Syria you were too embarrassed to ask“, and the obituary of a bouncer at The 9:30 Club, a well-known Washington club.

In the late afternoon, Mr. Bezos met with the entire newsroom in the first-floor community room for a question-and-answer session that lasted an hour and 20 minutes. That was the most widely chronicled event, with employees posting Twitter messages and comments — or what they called “Bezosisms” — every few minutes. Mr. Bezos answered questions about why he decided to buy The Post and why he would be interested in buying a newspaper when Amazon had a reputation for being slow to answer reporters’ questions.

Erik Wemple, the Post’s media reporter, quoted him on Twitter as saying, “I’ve always felt that the most powerful minds in the world can hold powerful inconsistencies.”

Toward the end of the session, Mr. Bezos addressed more difficult questions like the possible conflict of interest between The Post and Amazon’s contract for computer work with the Central Intelligence Agency. One employee, who attended the session but did not feel comfortable speaking on the record about his future owner, said that while Mr. Bezos “danced around” his answer, he added that he expected The Post to aggressively cover this relationship.

Mr. Bezos may have offered his most assuring comments when asked about his thoughts on journalism’s future. In a post, Cara Ann Kelly, The Washington Post’s Style Web producer, quoted him as saying, “If it’s hopeless — I would feel sorry for you guys — but I wouldn’t want to join you.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/05/business/media/bezos-is-a-hit-in-a-washington-post-newsroom-visit.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Economix: Faculty for Sale

Today's Economist

Nancy Folbre is an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

If you don’t like what economics professors like me are saying, go hire your own. Of course, if they’re on your payroll, no one will be surprised if they agree with you, so it’s best to hire them indirectly, through a tied donation to a university.

Frustrated that so few students are reading your favorite book about the virtues of free enterprise? Offer highly respected universities money to make it required reading.

As Catherine Rampell pointed out in Economix last week, conservative foundations founded by Charles Koch and John Allison have actively pursued such strategies.

Deft investigative reporting by James Lardner at Remapping Debate shows how another foundation established by one of the country’s wealthiest men, Peter G. Peterson, hired professors at Columbia University to develop a “fiscal responsibility” curriculum for high schools in the United States that closely reflects his own “deficit hawk” views.

Jennifer Washburn, author of “University Inc.,” has argued for years that public higher education is being increasingly privatized by reliance on corporate and alumni donations.

Concerns about this trend are often framed in terms of academic freedom, putting the onus primarily on universities. After all, if they don’t like the strings attached to donations, they can turn them down.

An editorial in the St. Petersburg Times, which recently broke the story about the Koch Foundation’s support for two professorships at Florida State for which it has the power to screen appointments, musters some admirably old-fashioned outrage.

But, as that editorial points out, the issue reaches well beyond principles of academic freedom.

In the marketplace of ideas, people with a lot of money can buy whatever they want, and that’s fine. Unfortunately, they also have the power to influence other people’s ideas in ways that violate principles of justice, undermine democracy and distort the truth.

It’s difficult to agree on a bright line dividing what we should allow from what we should prohibit. But we can describe a spectrum of efforts to influence ideas that range from the innocent to the corrupt.

Political advertising that honestly states a point of view clearly represents a form of free speech. At the opposite extreme lie criminal activities such as bribing jurors or buying inside information to profiteer in stocks.

The messy stuff lies in between. Efforts to negotiate new legal and moral boundaries are sometimes described as normative meddling rather than objective science. Edward Glaeser seemed to take this position in his post last week on Economix.

But surely efforts to decide what money should be allowed to buy could be usefully informed by social science research. What happens when wealth and income, concentrated in a few hands, can purchase influence without restraint?

Many studies paint an ugly picture. In “Rich Media, Poor Democracy,” Robert W. McChesney argues that corporate control of media shapes the information available to most of the public, constraining democratic debate.

In “Merchants of Doubt,” Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway document extensive corporate efforts to debunk scientific evidence of a variety of problems as diverse as cigarette smoking and global warming.

In “Winner-Take-All Politics,” the political scientists Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson explain how the increasing influence of campaign contributions on electoral outcomes has effectively disenfranchised low-income voters.

I haven’t been able to find any comprehensive research on the consequences of efforts to tilt economic education in a more conservative direction.

Maybe it’s hard to find wealthy donors eager to finance that kind of research with no strings attached.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=30c4c98d18731ebc3f505729a85631da