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Good news: Great journalism can be profitable

We’ve come a long way from Hearst — and yes, even Murdoch.

That’s because they don’t make journalism moguls like they used to. Jeff Bezos is arguably the best example.

(Unfortunately, there are other, not-so-great examples, but that’s another story.) 

Bezos, the billionaire founder of Amazon, is owner (some say savior) of The Washington Post . Since acquiring the iconic daily in 2012 he has, with impressive success, applied a refreshing strategic business/public service plan — emphasizing emerging communications technology and leaving news development and delivery to professional journalists. Cue robust investigative reporting.

With the highest praise — that of a prime competitor — The New York Times has taken note in an unusually appreciative column by its Common Sense columnist James B. Stewart.  Key excerpts:

“… by all visible measures, including the vital but hard-to-measure buzz factor, the resurrection of The Post, both editorially and financially, in less than four years has been little short of astonishing …

The Post’s recent scoops have often shaped the national conversation …  ‘Investigative reporting is absolutely critical to our business model’ [executive editor Martin Baron] told me … We hold government and powerful people and institutions accountable. This cannot happen without financial support … the public realizes that and is willing to step up and support that work by buying subscriptions.

“‘ The most fundamental thing Jeff did was to change our strategy entirely’ Baron said …’Our industry had suffered due to the internet, but the internet also brought gifts … it made distribution free.’

“Mr. Bezos also seems to be a hands-off owner: Although Mr. Baron said they typically had a teleconference every two weeks, Mr. Bezos hadn’t called this week, even after the Russia scoop (revelation that Michael Flynn had lied about his contacts with the Russians) …

 “The Post’s chief revenue officer, Jed Hartman: ‘You have to be great at everything … great at technology … great at monetization … I think we’re proving that if you are, great journalism can be profitable.”