The stunning news that Jeff Bezos of Amazon has bought the mighty Washington Post for $250 million has left the journalism world spinning dizzily.
It is not only the end of an era for the Post and the Graham family that owned it.
It’s the end of an era of print journalism itself.
And it was a death foretold.
Two years ago, John Nichols and Robert McChesney, in their pivotal book, The Death and Life of American Journalism, noted: “Daily newspapers are in free-fall collapse. The entire commercial news-media system is disintegrating. Wall Street and Madison Avenue are abandoning the production of journalism en masse.”
This is not good for democracy. There are fewer and fewer reporters to keep track of our elected officials, and even fewer to keep track of the unelected rulers of America, the corporations that throw their weight around not only in Washington but in every statehouse across the country.
Today, newspapers have become merely the playthings of the super-rich. First it was Rubert Murdoch. Now it’s Jeff Bezos. And meanwhile, the Koch Brothers are itching to get in the act.
Bezos may get bored with his new toy. But for Murdoch and the Koch Brothers, they are handy items to fool the public with.
In no case is the public interest in being served by this scavenging of the carcasses of daily newspapers.
We need public journalism, not private journalism.
And as Nichols and McChesney argue, we’re going to need public support for it, too, or you can kiss your dreams of democracy goodbye.