The Week That Was Media, Especially in Washington
The late Monday afternoon bombshell hit Washingtonians like a vengeful Washington Star. The Washington Post, an icon of print journalism and of the nation’s capital, is to be sold for $250 million to one of the Internet’s first and biggest digital innovators, billionaire Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com.
In an interview with his own newspaper, the Washington Post Co.’s chief executive Donald Graham said Aug. 5: “Every member of my family started out with the same emotion—shock—in even thinking about [selling The Post]. But when the idea of a transaction with Jeff Bezos came up, it altered my feelings. The Post could have survived under the company’s ownership and been profitable for the foreseeable future. But we wanted to do more than survive. I’m not saying this guarantees success but it gives us a much greater chance of success.”
For Georgetown, the sale of its big and influential hometown national newspaper that arrives -- or did arrive -- on its homes’ steps early in the morning is more personal. Some of the top editors or writers who worked at the Post lived or live here: the Grahams for years, Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn, Bob Woodward, to name but the more famous. We also would like to think we have some extra knowledge of what’s going on. Like everyone else, we were stunned. For Post employees, present and former, the sale brings forth the emotion of loss.
Yet for those of us in the media for decades, we should not be surprised. We experienced the rise of computers in the workplace earlier than most, jumping to a full digitally environment fairly quickly -- even as early as the 1980s. We first saw the consolidation of jobs. Did we know what impact the digital world would have on print journalism? We might have sensed it, but it seems we looked away. Then, all those new news websites popped up. After all, we write about many different things, but it is safe to say that economics and the future is not at the top of the list. The Internet turned everything upside.
Another media sale with a Georgetown connection: Allbritton Communications TV holdings’ purchase for almost $1 billion. Its chairman, Robert Allbritton lives here and wants to focus on the company’s web businesses, especially Politico.com.
Elsewhere, we saw the Boston Globe purchased last week for $70 million -- and a year or two ago, the sale of Newsweek and the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.
So, where does that leave a hometown newspaper and website like The Georgetowner? It is nearing its 60th anniversary. It has felt that same pressures, albeit on a smaller scale. It has changed with the times -- and benefits, in part, by its hyperlocal news and influence. This week, its Downtowner website -- DowntownerDC.com -- had its debut. The always exciting world of journalism is also always changing. We’ve gotten used to that.
Still, changes can be personal. For Washington, D.C., and its Washington Post, this week is personal. It hit home. We salute the Graham family for its 80 years of service -- and beyond. This family knows something about newspapers and other media that we also know: you may own it, but it doesn’t belong to you alone. That’s the magic of journalism, and that’s how we feel this week.