Washington Post publisher Katharine Weymouth on Tuesday joined Nia Malika Henderson on PostTV’s On Background, where she described her family’s decision to sell the newspaper it has guided for decades to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. A transcript of the interview follows.
NMH: I’m joined by Katharine Weymouth today who’s publisher of The Washington Post. Thanks so much for being here. Big day today, and this is the paper today. Katharine, I’m sure it landed on your doorstep this morning - how did we get to this moment?
KW: You know it really was a process. The fam – the paper has been in my family for 80 years going back to when my great-grandfather bought it, and we’ve as a family been incredibly proud to steward the business and be affiliated with it and hope to go on for generations to come and as Don and I and the board started looking at our future we began to ask ourselves the question of whether or not the Washington Post Company was still the right home for the Post and you know we think of this is not a regular business. This is a mission-driven business, and the goal is to preserve and enhance and enrich the mission, which is the journalism. And so that was what we really began to focus on was, is there an owner out there who could be a better owner for the Post in a private company, really invest in it, bring new assets to bear, and we found that in Jeff Bezos.
NMH: And why do you think Jeff will be a better owner? What does he bring to the table other than a sort of private structure ownership? What does he bring in terms of a vision?
KW: Well, you know, he has a proven track record as an entrepreneur. He is always focused on the long view. He invests for the long term, he is famous for ignoring Wall Street when he does that, and needless to say he takes tremendous technological expertise. So it almost is sort of a shift to a new generation and to a new family. I mean, it’s going from one family to another family, and what we like about Jeff is that he shares our values. He understands that the paper is going to write articles about Amazon and him and his friends that he may not like, and he understands that. So he’s not going to interfere editorially. He believes in what we do, and he’s buying it, because he wants to see it go on for generations to come.
NMH: And Don talked about cuts that you all were looking at. Are those cuts still going to happen?
KW: Well, I think Jeff has the same view that Don held, which is you can’t just lose money for years on end. So, I think he’ll be willing to invest if he can see where we’re going, but he’s not going to want to lose his – this is his own personal money, remember, not shareholder money. So he has asked us to do as Don had, stay profitable but you don’t have to be very profitable. So I think we will have to continue to cut our cost structure. I think there’s – that’s just the world we’re in. But I think Jeff also wants to invest, and he will have ideas once he gets a chance to get to know us and look at our business.