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Jeff Bezos buys the Washington Post

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The new media swallowing the old media has become a familiar pattern in recent years. The acquisition of the venerable Washington Post by Amazon boss Jeff Bezos though seems like a symbolic surrender.

Bezos bought the newspaper for $250 million, or, from a UK perspective, a small fraction of the money his company has escaped paying in UK taxes. The sale cannot be seen as anything other than a humbling of the iconic newspaper that famously exposed the Watergate scandal that brought down the Nixon regime in 1974.

It was Bezos himself rather than Amazon who bought the newspaper. After all, Amazon didn't get where it is today by investing in outdated and under-performing businesses. Instead the deal smacks of a vanity purchase by Bezos, whose immense riches have failed to bring him the gravitas that old-fashioned newspaper proprietors used to enjoy.

Post reporters may be intrigued to revisit some of their new owner's past utterances on paid-for news. He has said that it was too late for online news outlets to charge for their services and the future of print media was as a whimsical extra offered in luxury hotels. Presumably he has changed his mind since then and sees a long-term future for the Post, although it should also be noted that $250 million is hardly a huge investment for a man estimated to be worth in the region of $23 billion. The American term is "chump change".

Bezos insisted that the newspaper's editorial independence would remain in place. "The values of The Post do not need changing," Bezos said. "The duty of the paper is to the readers, not the owners."

That sounds like a challenge to the integrity of the paper's reporters. Perhaps a full-scale Post investigation into the financial affairs of Amazon would be the most appropriate response to Bezos's promises. We won't hold our breath.

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