The world of journalism was left reeling earlier this week when news broke that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post for $250 million. And no, the irony of the situation is not lost on me, or countless journalists throughout the globe.
First off, it was surprising that the sale of such a major newspaper to such a high-profile businessman was kept under wraps, especially since the Graham family has owned the paper since 1933. But more than that, it shows how truly uncertain the future of not just print journalism, but journalism in general, really is.
As someone who started out in journalism and has the utmost respect for the profession, news like this can be a bit jarring. Perhaps I am an example of how the landscape is changing, moving from a daily newspaper to freelance work to multimedia, content marketing and PR. But I’ll always have a soft spot for newspapers.
For me, there’s nothing like a good novel or film where investigative reporters race against the clock to solve a mystery. All The President’s Men is one of my all-time favorite movies, though, admittedly, such adventures are rare in the career of a journalist. (It’s worth noting that the film portrays the real story of two Washington Post reporters uncovering one of the greatest political scandals of the last century.)
Today, however, if you’re looking for something more indicative of what is happening in the newspaper industry, the fifth season of The Wire and the film (and mini-series it’s based on) State of Play might be more appropriate.
Jeff Bezos represents a big departure from the past. He is all about streamlining news content distribution, which can be a very good thing. But, it also makes you wonder about how the changes he institutes at The Post in the coming years will affect print newspapers and the world of journalism as a whole. Just look at how online stores like Amazon have changed the way consumers view brick-and-mortar stores.
The decline of newspapers has resulted in dwindling journalist ranks throughout the world. Consequently, PR professionals have fewer people to pitch their stories to and must be more creative than ever if they want their campaigns to be successful.
There has never been a more important time for PR firms to pay attention to what is happening in the world of journalism. The future of print newspapers, transitions to digital content, and the effect on the journalists themselves will all factor into how we do our jobs in the future.
Personally, while I enjoy and recognize the value of digital content in all its forms, I hope that printed newspapers never completely die off. Bezos has said there will obviously be some changes made at The Washington Post. What they are and how far-reaching the impact ends up being remains to be seen. What do you think will happen?