The Era of Family Newspapers Is Back

Media Politics in Perspective

By Matthew Yglesias

Last Friday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sold a bunch of Amazon stock. On Monday afternoon, we learned why. Bezos is buying the Washington Post for $250 million. The news—combined with the sale of the Boston Globe over the weekend for $70 million to the quantitative trading pioneer John Henry—has prompted a fair amount of gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over the much higher prices fetched recently by Tumblr and Instagram, and of the possible trampling of American democracy by egomaniacal newspaper-buying billionaires. While it’s of course possible that Bezos will ruin the Post or turn it into some kind of adjunct to Amazon’s lobbying efforts, we should more likely see this as a positive development.

The most journalistically successful American newspapers have almost always been family affairs, conducted in part out of non-pecuniary motives. Conversely, the sky-high valuations given to social networking startups reflect the…

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