The Jeffrey P. Bezos era at The Washington Post had its symbolic beginning at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, when the high-tech magnate indulged in a decidedly low-tech ritual: striking a triangle to summon editors for their afternoon meeting.
The chimes, amplified electronically across The Post’s historic newsroom, is a decades-old tradition. Bezos’s gesture prompted a ripple of applause as he smiled for a photographer before walking into the news meeting, part of a two-day tour of the news organization he agreed to buy for $250 million last month.
Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, has vowed to protect the paper’s journalistic independence while investing time and resources to create a new “golden era” for The Post. The Graham family, which has owned the paper for 80 years, decided to sell amid flagging revenue and circulation.
Dressed in tan pants and a white shirt open at the collar, Bezos offered few clues about his plans for The Post as he met with editors and company executives, they said. Bezos, who is expected to close the deal for The Post in about a month, maintained a genial, inquisitive manner punctuated by occasional outbursts of laughter.
Among others, Bezos met with members of The Post’s editorial board on Tuesday, including Fred Hiatt, the editorial page editor. Hiatt said it is too early to know how active Bezos will be in shaping the newspaper’s editorial policies. But Hiatt observed, “It’s entirely legitimate for an owner to have an editorial page that reflects his world view. Some owners don’t want to get involved, some work through the publisher, and some are very [directly] involved. I got the sense that he’s still in exploring mode.”
On Wednesday, Bezos plans to have breakfast with investigative journalist Bob Woodward, lunch with senior editors and a meeting with about 20 other Post journalists. After a tour of the newspaper’s production plant in Springfield, he will hold a town hall meeting with the entire newsroom.
During Tuesday’s visit, Bezos attended the 4:30 meeting as more of an observer than a participant, as is common with visitors to the newsroom. Bezos sat to the left of Executive Editor Martin Baron, near the head of the large table around which editors gather each day to discuss upcoming stories.
He listened attentively as editors discussed the stories slated for Wednesday’s front page and on the front pages of other sections.
Anne Kornblut, deputy national editor, noted that two stories on Syria weren’t as conflicting as they might initially appear — even though one argued that members of Congress support military strikes while the other said many are opposed. With both stories in the paper, Bezos quipped, “You know you can’t be wrong!” to laughter around the room.
After editors offered their views on upcoming stories, he was offered a chance to voice his opinion.
“Do you want to weigh in, Jeff?” asked Managing Editor Kevin Merida.
Bezos replied, “No, I don’t, except that I’m impressed with the process.”