During his tenure as executive editor at The Washington Post, Martin Barron faced a constant problem.
Jeff Bezos bought The Post for $250 million in 2013, less than a year after Mr. Barron took over. Mr. Bezos, who came into media ownership after founding Amazon and rebuilding online shopping, wanted his top editors to transform the newspaper from a regional news organization into a truly global news organization.
But Mr. Bezos, whose representatives oversee the budget, didn’t believe The Post needed to add that many new editors to accomplish that task. Reporters were classified as “direct” employees and editors as “indirect”—and their priority was to keep the “indirect” number down.
So, according to his upcoming memoir, Mr. Barron came up with a solution.
Mr. Barron writes, “To avoid sounding alarms down the line, my representative and I will remove the word ‘editor’ from proposed new positions whenever possible.” “The ‘analyst’ or ‘strategist’ were among the limited solutions.”
These days, Mr. Bezos knows more about the news business. And in recent months, he has become more involved in The Post’s operations, with staff morale down and business struggling.
mr bezos Where is He wants The Post to be profitable, but that goal is unlikely to be reached this year.
The Post is on pace to lose about $100 million in 2023, according to two people with knowledge of the company’s finances; Two other people with knowledge of the situation said the company expects to miss its forecasts for advertising revenue this year. They discussed internal financial matters on condition of anonymity. The Post has struggled to grow its paying subscribers since the 2020 election, when its digital membership peaked at three million. Now its number is about 2.5 million.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Bezos declined to make him available for an interview. The Post’s interim chief executive Patty Stoneifer said Mr Bezos was happy with “every dollar invested” in the company. A person familiar with Mr Bezos’ plans told The Post he plans to make 2023 “the year to invest”.
“I am very excited about what we can do at The Washington Post in the coming decade,” Ms. Stonecipher said in a statement. “Jeff’s second decade under ownership of The Post should be even more exciting.”
Mr Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post ended decades of ownership by the Graham family – which had steered the newspaper through its famous coverage of Watergate and the Pentagon Papers – and signaled a new era of expansion under one of the world’s best-known entrepreneurs. In a meeting with employees shortly after his purchase, Mr. Bezos encouraged Post employees to experiment digitally, taking advantage of “gifts of the Internet” such as the global reach that has brought Amazon amazing success. He provided substantial financial support for the expansion of the newsroom.
Mr. Bezos took over product decisions and hired former Politico chief executive officer Fred Ryan to replace Graham family scion Katherine Weymouth as publisher. She retained Mr Barron as The Post’s top editor until his retirement in 2021, often referring to him as the best journalism tutor any boss could ask for. He helped select Sally Buzby as Mr. Barron’s successor, inviting her to his home in Washington’s posh Kalorama neighborhood.
But after initial interest that lasted several years, and his decision to step down as Amazon chief executive, Mr. Bezos has retreated somewhat at The Post, according to two people familiar with his conversations with the newsroom.
That changed in January, when Ms. Buzby spoke to Mr. Bezos and delivered an urgent message: morale at The Post was low. Much of it, he said, stemmed from missteps by Mr. Ryan, the newspaper’s chief business executive, according to two people familiar with his comments.
Ms. Buzby’s relationship with Mr. Ryan had soured. He accused his top deputy, Cameron Barr, of leaking information about The Post’s operations to the press and sought his removal, according to three people familiar with his comments. Through a spokesman, Mr. Ryan denied accusing Mr. Barr of leaking information and trying to get rid of him. The Post declined to comment on the situation. Two people familiar with the matter said there was no evidence to support the leaked claims.
Many at The Post had become frustrated with what they saw as an abusive business culture, which was presided over by Mr. Ryan, and they conveyed these concerns to Ms. Buzby.
Pratibha was also bleeding in the post. In the past year, along with top editors including Mr. Barr, several prominent journalists including Pulitzer Prize winners Eli Saslow, Robert Samuels and Stephanie McCrumman left; Steven Ginsberg, a longtime editor; David Malitz, Senior Culture Editor; and Sharif Durhams, Deputy Managing Editor.
There was a similar exodus among top post officials, including Chief Information Officer Shailesh Prakash; Joy Robbins, Chief Revenue Officer; Kat Downs Mulder, Chief Product Officer; and Christine Corati Kelly, Chief Communications Officer. (Ms. Robbins, Mr. Saslo, Mr. Malitz and Mr. Ginsberg have joined The New York Times Company.)
In January, Mr. Bezos made a rare appearance in the newsroom. He sat in on the morning news meeting, and later in the day he met with a handful of Post reporters. During some of his meetings, several Post employees expressed concern about missteps by Mr. Ryan and the direction of the newspaper.
In June, Mr. Ryan announced his resignation, telling staff that he planned to start a new project, the Center on Public Civility, of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, where he is chairman of the board. Mr. Bezos agreed to provide funding for the center.
In an interview with The Times last month, Mr Ryan said he had “a lot of conversations” with Mr Bezos about the new organisation.
Mr. Bezos hired Ms. Stonecipher, a friend who served on Amazon’s board for more than two decades, to run The Post in Mr. Ryan’s absence and serve as an interim chief executive while a search for a permanent chief executive was underway.
Ms. Stonecipher – who is not taking a salary for the job – has already started putting her stamp on The Post. She’s meeting with staff members frequently, asking for feedback on what she calls “flowers,” things people are proud of and want to keep growing, and “weeds” like issues people want to tackle.
On July 11, she and Mr. Ryan hired The Times and CNN veteran Alex McCallum as The Post’s chief revenue officer, and named Vineet Khosla as the newspaper’s chief technology officer. Ms. Stonecipher has repeatedly told staff members that Mr. Bezos is deeply committed to the business and sees the newspaper as a legacy for his family.
Mr. Bezos has personally overseen a pilot project being developed for The Post’s opinion section, which is being run by David Shipley, a former Bloomberg editor whom he helped recruit. The initiative — which doesn’t yet have an official name — is seeking a platform for readers in cities across the United States to submit their opinions and comments.
Mr. Bezos has told his confidants that the new effort, which is being developed with the help of former New York magazine editor Adam Moss, is an opportunity to reach readers who may have seen the story, according to four people familiar with its development. Mr. Bezos has been holding regular meetings with Mr. Shipley to discuss the project.
Other changes planned at The Post include a reboot of the 54-year-old Style section in September. The overhaul will include an online redesign, according to three people with knowledge of the plans.
Mr. Ryan’s departure is seen among staffers as a victory for Ms. Buzby, whose relationship with The Post’s newsroom has at times been strained since joining The Associated Press two years ago. The Post continues to provide high-quality journalism and in May won two Pulitzer Prizes for its reporting, while a book written by two Post journalists was awarded the General Nonfiction Prize.
According to people in the newsroom, Ms. Buzby is now meeting with Ms. Stonecipher regularly and seems energized by that collaboration, who is also buoyed by Ms. Stonecipher’s close relationship with Mr. Bezos.
“There’s a sense of hope, which we haven’t had in a long time,” said Sally Quinn, longtime Post journalist and widow of The Post’s former top editor Ben Bradley.