Can Jeff Bezos save The Washington Post ?

Jeff Bezos, owner of The Washington Post and founder of Amazon, found himself under pressure to react to the growing crisis at his newspaper company.

by Faruk Imamovic
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Can Jeff Bezos save The Washington Post ?
© Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla

Jeff Bezos, the billionaire owner of The Washington Post and Amazon, has remained unusually quiet about the turmoil rocking his paper. Explosive reports seriously question the ethical integrity of the new publisher, Will Lewis, while staff lose patience with the owner's lack of response.

The Washington Post staff is frustrated by Bezos' inactivity. His only reaction to the crisis was to send a spare, 138-word message from a Mediterranean holiday, in which he stressed the importance of maintaining high standards.

In message he said that he wants standards to remain 'very high'.

New drama with the editor

The drama continued when Lewis announced that Robert Winnett, whom he had appointed as the new editor, would not be heading the paper.

This followed a story that revealed Winnett had used material from a self-proclaimed "thief" for reporting. The frustrations are so great that two Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists have publicly requested a change in leadership.

David Maraniss, an associate editor who has worked at the paper for nearly five decades, said: "I don't know a single person at the Post who thinks the current situation with the publisher and the supposed new editor can last." Scott Higham, who has been with the paper for more than twenty years, agreed and called for Lewis' resignation.

“Will Lewis needs to step down for the good of The Post and the public,” wrote Higham on Facebook. “He has lost the newsroom and will never win it back”. The Post staff is anxiously waiting for Bezos to take concrete action, reports CNN.

One staffer said it was a "massive distraction" when the Guardian published a shocking story accusing Lewis of advising then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to "clean" his phone during the "Partygate" scandal. In the absence of a reaction from Bezos, stories questioning Lewis' ethical integrity continue to emerge.

The Financial Times reported that Lewis still "maintains links" with a PR firm that advises corporate and political leaders on how to deal with difficult situations. Although the FT reported that Lewis had sold his ownership stake in the firm, they noted that the firm still "distributes regular emails from Lewis", causing "confusion among contacts."

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