Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post — and the journalism it’s practicing
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The Washington Post has for years been a newspaper that favors Democrats and liberalism generally. This has been seen in the kind and quality of issues covered, and not covered, in its feature and investigative stories, and in its editorials. But not until this year has the paper so grossly abandoned the practice of separating news from opinion in its news stories.

And that is something that, for all his distractions and grandeur, the Post’s owner, Jeff Bezos, must now correct — that or he needs to accept personally the decline and opprobrium that is coming the Post’s way.

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Under normal circumstances the owner of a media company is best advised to steer clear of editorial matters, but that won’t work at the Post any longer. It’s become obvious that, with the election of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpConway: Trump doesn't think he's lying on voter fraud, wiretap claims 'The Simpsons' turned down Trump guest appearance on show: producer GOP consultant: Kid Rock would be 'prohibitive favorite' if he enters Michigan Senate race MORE, none of the editors at the paper can be trusted to uphold even the most basic of journalistic standards.

This has been true since Trump first announced his candidacy, but it has escalated gruesomely since his election. Witness, for instance, what is perhaps the shoddiest piece of feature writing since Rolling Stone published its blatantly false story about a campus rape at the University of Virginia.

I refer to the Post piece published on Nov. 24, titled “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say.” Sourced largely by a strange outfit calling itself PropOrNot, the “experts” referred to in the headline and the text refuse to identify themselves, even on their own website. They also claim not to be the recipients of outside funding.

What they do claim, according to the Post piece, is that a “sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign” disseminated “fake news” articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump: Democrats, Russians laughing at 'phony Russian Witch Hunt' Scaramucci makes Sunday shows debut with vow to stop WH leaks Trump backers eye GOP primary challenges for Flake, Heller MORE, and helping Donald Trump.

As the Post’s reporter, Craig Timberg, so broadmindedly put it, “There is no way to know whether the Russian campaign proved decisive in electing Trump, but researchers portray it as part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders.”

Writing in The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald eviscerates PropOrNot, by pointing out the group’s amateurish prose and overall shadiness. Bottom line: PropOrNot, and the only other source quoted by the Post, a Cold War relic called the Foreign Policy Research Institute, are “conservative” outfits that fear a Trump administration will decline these groups’ interest in “nation building” and/or using the USA as the world’s policeman.

So that’s what they’re about, but why is the Post promoting them in stories like Timberg’s? Could it be because the Post’s editors are so flummoxed by the Trump phenomenon they are reduced to promoting even the most crackpot groups and individuals whose self-aggrandizing mission is to undo, or undermine the legitimacy of, Trump’s election?

This is where Jeff Bezos comes in. Nobody knows why the gentleman bought the Post in the first place, but surely it was not to make money. Making money is something Bezos knows how to do real well, but nobody in his right mind would buy The Washington Post, even for the relatively paltry sum of $250 million, to get rich. Even his aerospace company, Blue Origin, stands a better chance of turning a profit.

So perhaps one can hope his motivation was to do something for the country, by producing a journalistic gem in the nation’s capital. If this was the mission, it’s not working out, and like any competent manager, Bezos needs to address this matter personally.

Washington, D.C., is, after all, the seat of law, government and politics in this country, and it’s in the nation’s vital interest that the dominant newspaper in that city be journalistically excellent. And that means, among other attributes, rigorously separating news from opinion, something the Post is manifestly not doing now.

 

Patrick Maines is president of The Media Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to freedom of speech, competitive communications policies, and journalistic excellence. The views expressed are those of Maines alone, and not of the Institute’s funders, Board, or advisory councils. 


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.