Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is buying the Washington Post and some other assorted properties for $250 million (or about one quarter what Instragram feteched when it was bought). Already the speculation is swirling as to whether or how Bezos will change the paper, but the most interesting question is what impact he may have on the Post’s stand on marriage equality.
The reason for raising the question: Bezos contributed $2.5 million to last year’s successful ballot measure to bring marriage equality in Washington state. That is far and away the highest-profile political position that Bezos has ever made. For someone of his corporate stature, Bezos is famously low key and his company seemingly uninterested in playing a role in Seattle civic life.
The Washington Post has been supportive of marriage equality, but in an incrementalist way. Its editorials support full marriage equality — just not yet. In the best tradition of the mainstream media, the paper stakes out two sides of the issue and comes down in the middle, which isn’t likely to satisfy anyone.
Interestingly, earlier this year, the paper’s ombudsman wrote a column in which he denied that the paper was pro-gay but also said the paper “should do a better job of understanding and conveying to readers, with detachment and objectivity, the beliefs and the fears of social conservatives.” If, as the column insists, gay rights is a civil rights issue, it’s hard to see how opponents can be portrayed “with detachment” without giving their perspective more credibility than it deserves. It’s fine to be fair, but on some things you can’t be neutral.
Bezos may opt to have a hands-off policy on the paper’s editorial position. Or he may wish to focus on other issues, like the internet sales tax. But it’s worth wondering if the Post, which serves as the hometown paper for the Washington elite, may not get a little bolder. That would be a welcome development.