Amazon founder Jeff Bezos just bought The Washington Post -- and I don't give a crap.
But Steve, won't there be monumental changes to the media landscape? No. He's going to change it the way Sidney Harman and Tina Brown changed Newsweek, which would be an utter failure, or he's going to change it the way Chris Hughes is changing The New Republic, which is meh. How much have the alterations in these publications changed your life, if you're my typical (non-media-insider) reader? I'm middle-aged, and Newsweek was out there my whole life -- and now it's all but gone, yet there doesn't seem to be a hole where it used to exist. The Internet has been the big -- to use the modish word -- "disruptor." Individuals who've created new Internet ventures (Drudge, Huffington, etc.) have shaken the news media up in a way I can perceive. I'll give Murdoch and Ailes credit for a real shakeup in cable news. But I can't name a single mogul or editor or mogul/editor who's taken a stodgy old property and transformed it in any game-changing way. Bezos won't either.
He'll tinker, he'll redesign, he'll change the work culture, we'll read about it endlessly because the media loves stories about itself -- and it won't matter to us. Well-known writers we love or hate will be promoted or let go, and if they're let go, no big deal -- they'll land on their feet. (Sure, it would be fun to see Fred Hiatt or Charles Krauthammer or Charles Lane or Jennifer Rubin fired, but do you think they wouldn't wind up somewhere else? If the new regime cans Ezra Klein, don't you think he'll just wind up at New York magazine or MSNBC or Slate or The New York Times?)
I'm not really concerned about Bezos's politics. Reason's Matt Welch claims him as a libertarian, The Atlantic's David Graham says he mostly contributes to Democrats, but his Amazon PAC gives to Dems and Republicans roughly equally (while he's personally put a lot of money into backing gay marriage) -- and that suggests to me that he's not a resentnik ideologue like Rupert Murdoch who's going to use his media properties to exact revenge against what he regards as a hateful Establishment.
Michael Tomasky, who's having some of the most overheated reactions to all this, tweets:
He's a libertarian. Could you picture the WaPo endorsing Rand Paul over Hillary Clinton? Not impossible.— Michael Tomasky (@mtomasky) August 6, 2013
Who cares? Do you know anyone who's ever cast a presidential vote based on The Washington Post's endorsement? What would threaten Hillary would be a year and a half of contemptuous coverage in dozens of media outlets, a la the master media narrative with regard to Al Gore in 2000. I could easily imagine that, and I can easily imagine the pre-Bezos or Bezos Post giving us that narrative, in dozens of stories stretching across the entire campaign. That's what would matter, not a meaningless endorsement.
More from Tomasky:
Dp you think Bezos wants to be president, like Charles Foster Kane?— Michael Tomasky (@mtomasky) August 6, 2013
Oh, please. He's the 11th-richest man in America. He runs the 49th-largest company on the Fortune 500. The president comes to him, or at least to Amazon. President? Why would he want a demotion like that?