He said that the content of the newspaper in the digital age should “be a blend of human judgment and metrics,” just as The Post has combined a wide range of features from comics to international news.
“Should we stop doing investigative journalism because it’s unrewarding and other people copy it? Should we stop?” Bezos said. “No, we have to figure out how to get back to that bundle, have to find things people will pay for. It’s not that they don’t want it. They say, ‘I’m not sure I want to pay for it,’ but they do want it.”
Many questions in the full staff meeting dealt with editorial as well as business issues. Bezos said he had no desire to change the staff of the editorial page even though editorial page editor Fred Hiatt offered to step aside.
“I don’t associate with any party,” he said. “I do have things I care about and some of those are public, like gay marriage.” But, he said, “I don’t feel the need to have an opinion on every issue.” He added, “I’m very happy to let the folks at the Post opine on those issues. I see no reason to change what we’re doing.”
He also said that reporters should “feel free to cover Amazon any way you want, feel free to cover Jeff Bezos any way you want.” He said he has felt in general that he and Amazon had been covered fairly.
Asked about his interest in buying a newspaper and his practice of not commenting for most news stories, Bezos said, “the most powerful minds can hold powerful inconsistencies.” He said he often declines to comment because he doesn’t want his competition to know about his plans. “We’re not as silent or secretive as we’re sometimes portrayed,” he said, while conceding that “we are on the quiet side.”
“I will never out-Don Don. Impossible,” he said, referring to Don Graham in response to a question about what he would bring to the Washington community. “I will have to do this as Jeff and it’s going to be different for so many reasons, and one of them is that I’m going to be in Seattle.”
Asked whether he regards The Post as simply an interesting business problem, Bezos recalled lying on the living room floor next to his grandfather watching the Watergate hearings. “I do feel that newspapers and in particular the Washington Post are important components of free societies.”
He said he considers himself “a kind of American exceptionalist” and believes “this is a good country.” But he added that “our elected officials are not perfect. Our regulators are not perfect.”
“I guess somebody could argue..[that] the Washington Post and New York Times are not as important as they used to be because we have Wikileaks. I don’t buy that,” he said. “There are a whole class of things that wouldn’t be found out that way. The credibility that an organization like the Washington Post brings is important. It would be doing a disservice to this organization for my motivations to be just business curiosity.”