X
X
Top

PS : The washington post

Highlights

Can there be a worse thing for newspaper addicts than the ‘death’ of their favourite newspaper? Yes, its management falling into undesirable, incompetent hands. Recall what happened to the Lord Thomson-owned prestigious London ‘Times’ and ‘Sunday Times’ when they fell into the unworthy hands of Rupert Murdoch. Today, as American print media faces an unprecedented crisis, one of the country’s most celebrated dailies ‘Washington Post’ sold out to Jeff Bezos, founder-owner of Amazon.com and reputed to be the 19th richest man in the US.

If these are difficult days for the US print media. Gone are the Grahams (Washington Post) the Chandlers (Los Angeles Times), the Copleys ( San Diego Tribune), the Bancrofts (The Wall Street Journal), all legendary owners, leaving only the Sulzbergers {New York Times) in isolated splendour

Can there be a worse thing for newspaper addicts than the ‘death’ of their favourite newspaper? Yes, its management falling into undesirable, incompetent hands. Recall what happened to the Lord Thomson-owned prestigious London ‘Times’ and ‘Sunday Times’ when they fell into the unworthy hands of Rupert Murdoch. Today, as American print media faces an unprecedented crisis, one of the country’s most celebrated dailies ‘Washington Post’ sold out to Jeff Bezos, founder-owner of Amazon.com and reputed to be the 19th richest man in the US.

We can only console ourselves with the fact that, unlike Murdoch, Jeff Bezos appears to love books and his latest invention, ‘The Kindle’ made access to books easier to millions all over the world. He pioneered online shopping, starting with books, and is currently worth $ 25.2 billion. Bezos assured employees of the 135-year-old newspaper he would maintain its tradition. Well, that is the usual assurance given by all new owners and we have to wait and watch if the new owner keeps his word.

Unlike the old ‘Post’ which sold its shares in the market, the new ‘Post’ will be a personal acquisition for the new owner. An encouraging sign was the retaining of Katherine Weymouth, granddaughter of the legendary owner Katherine Graham, Martin Baron (Executive Editor) and Fred Hiatt, (editorial page editor). Hopefully this should make the transition a lot easier.

Yet, these are difficult days for the US print media. Gone are the Grahams (Washington Post) the Chandlers (Los Angeles Times), the Copleys ( San Diego Tribune), the Bancrofts (The Wall Street Journal), all legendary owners, leaving only the Sulzbergers {New York Times) in isolated splendour. But only last week, the ‘Times’ announced it was selling ‘The Boston Globe’ which it had acquired some years back. Readers were still moaning the loss of ‘Newsweek’, which was a prestigious member of the ‘Post’ family. For years, along with ‘Time’, ‘Newsweek’ was a must for many every week. Who would have thought that such a great magazine would undergo several avatars and could not be saved even by the redoubtable British journalist and Editor Tina Brown?

As readership and ad revenue dwindled, the big publishing houses adopted a ‘cut your losses and run’ policy. ‘NYT’ purchased ‘The Boston Globe’ in 1993 for $ 1.1 billion and sold it for the Boston Red Sox baseball team owners for $ 70 m. Though ‘New York Times’, ‘Wall street Journal’ and ‘USA Today’ were sold in the American capital, the ‘Post’ was the number one daily in town leaving the right-wing dailies ‘Washington Times’ and ‘Washington Star’ far behind.

Yet, the prestigious paper, winner of 47 Pulitzer awards which exposed the Watergate scandal, was sold away for just $ 250m. At a final staff meeting, Chairman cum CEO Donald Graham announced that the paper would have managed to survive and made small profits but would do much better under the stewardship of someone like Jeff Bezos.

Losing readers and advertisers to Internet was happening fast in the US. People preferred to get their news from the Net, TV and websites and were not interested in lengthy opinion pieces. There was no time to read about ‘why’ certain things happened and certain other things did not. The Post’s ad revenue fell from $957m in 1995 to $582m last year. Paid weekday circulation dropped from 7,680,000 copies in 2002 to 481,000 last year. There was no magic wand, no magic words to check this trend. Why should the world’s richest nation cut down on newspaper reading which was zooming even in poor, backward India?

Have the Americans forgotten so easily print giants like Walter Lippmann, James Reston, David Broder, R.W.Apple (Jr) , gutsy editors like Benjamin Bradlee, dedicated publishers like Katherine Graham who dared to take on Richard Nixon’s Watergate and expose the lawlessness which had crept into the White House? In the absence of suitable print media, reporters like Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein under the leadership of Graham and Bradlee could not have brought down the corrupt and lawless Nixon administration.

But for the NYT and WP exposes on the Pentagon papers, most Americans would have remained ignorant why America fought the ignoble Vietnam War. Print journalism gave to America men and women of great courage. Can the TV and Internet offerings make adequate substitutes? One day, the US reading public and advertisers would realize their follies.

Who knows, the new ‘Post’ could be luckier than the old one. The new owner could be someone to make the US a better place to live in, display courage and encourage initiative to expose wrongdoings. There was nothing wrong in print media making money. But Katherine Graham would not have sold her beloved ‘Post’ on the pretext that though the paper could survive, it would do better in the hands of someone else! That reflected a defeatist attitude.

Remember the bitter Watergate days when Nixon stopped White House subscriptions to the Post, denied access to its reporters and threatened to cancel the licenses of its radio stations? But her defiance continued. It was this courage which won the paper 47 Pulitzers and several other awards.

The US is undergoing a tense, traumatic period, both at home and abroad. The economic slowdown continues. Despite an Afro-American ( or because of) President at the White House, racial tensions are on the rise.

White policemen are shooting down unarmed black boys on the merest suspicion. Terrorist threat continues and the entire West and sections of Asia and Africa are under electronic surveillance ordered by the Obama administration. Syria, Iraq, and Palestine are bleeding and the promised war against poverty has not even begun. People all over the world needed to know in detail what was happening and why; that is why we need the print media which should play an equal role as TV in enlightening people.

Show Full Article
Print Article
Download The Hans India Android App or iOS App for the Latest update on your phone.
Subscribed Failed...
Subscribed Successfully...
Next Story
More Stories