Do We Dare to Hope?

Has Amazon’s Jeff Bezos developed a workable business model for real journalism? According to Politico and other sources, the Washington Post–which Bezos bought three years ago–plans to add sixty reporters in the first quarter of 2017.

That’s not a typo–the Post really is hiring sixty new reporters.

The Post newsroom will grow by more than 60 jobs — or 8 percent — an astounding number in this day and age. Such contrarian additions, of course, come at a time when newsroom staff reductions are the rule across daily journalism.

The Post newsroom will number more than 750, third among the national newspaper-based press and moving it closer to the Times, with which it increasingly competes for high-end talent. The Times complement stands at about 1,307, the company says. USA Today’s newsroom stands at about 450, while the Journal, after its recent buyouts, tells me it employs 1,500.

Furthermore, subscriptions are evidently up at the Times, Journal and USA Today.

According to the story, Bezos believes that old-fashioned journalism — increasingly delivered via a variety of digital platforms from smartphone apps to the Kindle to Facebook — sells.

The Post has seen a 75 percent increase in new subscribers since the first of the year and says it has doubled digital subscription revenue over the year. Many of those new subscribers prove out Bezos’ theory that a mass market of low-price (generally around $36 a year for the national edition, after up to six months of “free trial”) subscription sales will form the leading revenue source for the Post in the years ahead.

In a time of journalistic business desperation worldwide, that’s a hugely important lesson being retaught to all news publishers by both the Post and the Times this year.

This is an incredibly important development. It is not an exaggeration to say that the displacement of genuine journalism by today’s fragmented and inadequate media bears much of the blame for today’s toxic and broken politics. Increasingly, as legitimate journalism has ceded its place to less-than-credible outlets, people don’t know whether they can trust what they read and so they read–and believe–what confirms their pre-existing biases.

As formerly reputable newspapers have competed online for eyeballs and “clicks,” far too many have eliminated sound reporting and substituted “infotainment,” celebrity news, the “bar beat” and sports. They have fired reporters and reduced substantive news coverage (which is more expensive to produce) in an effort to protect their bottom lines. It hasn’t worked.

The Post’s experience vindicates those of us who have insisted that any successful business plan would necessarily begin with a return to quality content–to what used to be called the journalism of verification.

Dare we hope that this “discovery” by national news outlets–their renewed recognition that the public wants substantive content and a return to journalism’s “watchdog” role–might encourage a similar trend locally?

As promising as this news is–and it is–it only addresses the deficit in national news. In Indianapolis and similar communities, we are still without anything approximating adequate coverage of local and state government. Gannett is still chasing those eyeballs by telling us more than most of us want to know about Colts’ games and bar openings.

Fingers crossed; maybe even Gannett will figure out that success in the news business requires…what was that they used to provide? Oh, yeah…news.


  1. Hurrah! The Post has always been a favorite, and I do subscribe on-line. The only thing I miss about the print edition is the funny pages. I wish they’d do those on-line as well.

  2. I doubt that Jeff Bezos made this decision all on his own. I see the hand of Marty Baron (Boston Globe “Spotlight” fame) in this move toward better news reporting. His guidance of the Globe through that paper’s historic coverage of the Catholic Church child abuse scandal reveals a ferocious defender of journalism and that much needed character trait of being able to speak truth to power. Likewise, his leadership at the Post throughout this presidential election has been excellent and right on the mark. Perhaps both Bezos and Baron recognize that the next few years are going to require one hell of a lot of news coverage.

    Regardless of the reasons, I am hopeful for a better day too.

  3. I suspect The election of Donald Trump has something to do with it. When DJT was reporting the the NYT was failing, subscriptions were skyrocketing. Hopefully DJT has jolted most of us out of our complacency.

  4. I grew up with newspapers in the house. My Dad got two a day. I am grateful for that. I still get the PAPER version, even though most of it is just awful (Indy Star). Sometimes I want to cancel it but I just can not do it

  5. In the back drop, please don’t forget the WaPo was behind the “fake news” scandal. The real scandal is WaPo has been used by the establishment to disseminate propaganda. Gannett is really good at using propaganda. If you notice, they try to lend creditability by saying it came from “Washington Bureau”. I’ve attached an article I recently posted on Muncie Voice. The government is using the “Russia did it” scare to cook up even more ways they can use propaganda:

    I suspect Bezo’s decision to ramp up journalism at WaPo coincided with our governments intent to control propaganda. Will these new journalists be toting the establishment line or will we get investigative journalism from WaPo. Hopefully, Americans know the difference.

  6. America without Honest and Well Researched Facts that are Truthful presented is the corner stone of our Democracy, The people’s right to know Facts not Distorted opinions by all extremists and conspiracy theories alike is paramount to a free nation. Now How ??
    Make it liabale for anyone who knowing spreading false information, hold all sources, and anyone claiming to be a news information sources responsible for what that put out.
    Or they can choose to state up front that what they are placing before their audiences is entertainment, humor or fake news.
    I know it wouldn’t happen now, but if it’s going out over the public air ways it should be clear as to what type of information it is. Even Russian influenced.

  7. After witnessing the downward spiral of the Star (in my opinion, it has always been an arm of the Indiana Republican party) following it’s sale to Gannett, I have no expectations that it will suddenly realize that people are interested in something other than advertising and LOCAL sports. I see the final chapter of the Star as its complete failure and financial bankruptcy (as opposed to its intellectual bankruptcy which happened long ago). Because of our location and our history, I doubt that Bezos or his equivalent would be interested in purchasing or resurrecting to Star from the ashes.

  8. Fabulous to hear journalism is making an assertive move toward reality. I grew up in Missouri where Missouri University had a great impact on students from high school forward. My favorite high school teacher, Ruth Minetree (whose emphasis was English grammar and literature), used the U.MO. course to instruct her students for a semester after which they ran the school paper. Our staff received numerous national awards for excellency. Hence forth I have always been able to spot both good and bad journalism. National Public Radio and television have always highlighted the best in Journalism. Then you get the New York Times and some really good magazines. It amuses me when rednecks refer to good journalism as that “terrible mainstream media.” Don’t put these folks in charge of a beauty contests, for they would crown Attila the Hag as Queen every year.

  9. I suspect that this is really bad news for Mr. Trump. Those folks are going to report THE story which may save the Republic.

  10. Substantive news coverage, Sheila? What’s that? Canned AP reports? Who edits those? How much more reliable is their substance than totally unedited reports from social media? I think you are right to observe that the lack of good reporting was in part responsible for the election of Trump, who said (and still does because he has proven he can get away with it) most anything that comes to mind which, unbelievably, millions take for gospel. We assume that more reporters means more objective reporting, but in this day and age with competing and unedited sources, they have their work cut out for them if their employers are going to attract enough advertising revenue to stay in business (read circulation). I hope that addition of reporters means better quality reporting as in the old days of speaking truth to power. I am reminded of a White House press corps in the Twenties who were playing poker and drinking (then forbidden) whiskey when someone opened the door and said the president (Calvin Coolidge) is dead. I think it was Dorothy Thompson who answered: “How can they tell?” That is the kind of measured arrogance we will need in dealing with the Orange Head, who deserves nothing less and who has already demonstrated his hatred for the media. Let’s buy newspapers. Perhaps they will thus be enabled to hire more help.

  11. Part of our problem is that we have allowed ourselves to confuse the craft of journalism with the method of delivery. The need for solid, honest reporting of events does not go away. Finding the proper delivery system in any given age is the difficult task.

  12. We the consumer have to accept some blame for the near death experience of journalism and the birth of the post-truth age. We want knowledge for free and as in many things what’s available for free is worthless.

    In my climate science work much of the discord is due to people who don’t want to invest time, treasure and talent into learning science but feel entitled to expertise for free. Browser scientists.

    For those who really can’t afford to pay for journalism there is PBS but that requires paying attention and giving up entertainment.

  13. I hope the quality of journalism will rise with the rising numbers of journalists. I hope there will be some good ones sprinkled in there.

    The challenge will be keeping up with the 3 T’s (Trump Tower Tweets) and chasing after him at his Palm Beach estate. This is a helluva way to run what is (was?) the most powerful country in the world. Dark storm clouds are already gathering, in case some haven’t noticed. To arms, journalists! Bumpy ride ahead!

  14. The TV-Cable News Networks are a joke. I rarely watch CNN, MSNBC or FOX any more. When I do watch them there are these panels of “experts” that blather on with theatrical seriousness about their unnamed mystery sources. Of course they have to argue with each other.

    The Indianapolis Star quality is awful. Some of their articles are just words with no thought connecting through. My concern with the McMega-Media has been for decades the slant they want to push out there. When NAFTA was being considered, you would have been hard pressed to find articles critical of NAFTA. The same held true when Bush the Younger was pushing the nation onto war with Iraq War 2. Questions about the necessity to go to war were buried under an avalanche of Pro-War Rah-Rah.

  15. I am excited that so many people are beginning to want to pay attention to what is going on again by subscribing to the real news. I myself thanks to a Christmas gift from my spouse am now a New York Times subscriber again. Problem is it just never shows up at the door. I don’t know what is worse getting the Indy Star or not getting the Times.

  16. You’re all cheering a member of the Mainstream Presstitute media .
    Wake up .
    Trump IS the winner – get over it.
    Signed , An ultra left-wing radical Yippy socialist from the 1960’s.

  17. Get over it, Mark? Like the Germans got over it when Adolph came to power? I say, “Yea, Bezos”!

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