December 8, 2023

Westside People

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Jeff Bezos visits The Washington Post as layoffs loom

The Washington Post was struggling with declining advertising revenue and stalled online subscription growth. The question that has been hovering around him in recent months: What does Jeff Bezos think?

Amazon founder, who News Corporation bought In 2013, he didn’t say anything publicly about his recent struggles to The Post. But on Thursday, he made a rare appearance in the newsroom, joining the morning news meeting for the first time in more than a year.

He still says little. “I’m glad to be here and see all these faces,” Bezos said, according to three people familiar with his notes, before asking The Post’s editor-in-chief, Sally Buzby, about her recent trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “Thank you for letting me listen,” he continued.

“Great,” said Mrs. Buzby. “Let’s hold a press conference.”

But the meeting — with Mr. Bezos sitting next to Mrs. Buzby at a large conference table in a glass-walled conference room on the sixth floor, with publisher Fred Ryan, who was seated nearby — indicated he was paying attention.

“Jeff is here for in-person meetings with Fred, Sally and staff throughout the newsroom,” a spokeswoman for Jeff said in an email.

Other than Mr. Bezos’ appearance, the press meeting proceeded as it might on any other day, with editors discussing news stories and reader trends, according to people familiar with the meeting. At one point, an editor mentioned plans to publish an article about discontinuing AmazonSmile, the charitable program Mr. Bezos championed. The editors also discussed the pending sale to Washington’s leaders. the post Previously mentioned that Mr. Bezos was interested in buying a National Football League team.

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The Post expanded rapidly after Mr. Bezos, one of the world’s richest people, bought the company for $250 million, dramatically adding newsroom functionality and increasing its coverage areas. But work I stopped in the last year.

Last month, Mr. Ryan told employees in a tense meeting that he would be there Layoffs. A Post spokeswoman said in a statement at the time that the job cuts were intended to “position our business in the best position for future growth.” The layoffs, which Mr. Ryan said will be a single-digit percentage of employees, are expected to take place early this year.

During the meeting on Thursday, Mr. Bezos’ entourage stood outside the room, earphones clearly visible. As he was leaving, he was stopped by a Post employee wearing a red shirt emblazoned with The Post’s union insignia and asked why the company was laying off people without first offering buy-ins, according to the three people familiar with the meeting. Mr. Bezos replied that he was in The Post to listen, not answer questions, and reaffirmed his commitment to The Post’s journalism.

In a statement Thursday, the union said, “We hope Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos has listened to employee pleas to stop these impending layoffs that, as far as we know, are not financially necessary or inherent in any conscious business strategy. From Publisher Fred Ryan.” . The union said at least 60 people have joined the union since Mr. Ryan announced the layoffs.

Mr. Bezos’ visit was seen internally as an indication of his commitment to the publication’s future, which was in question. He met with senior editors including Cameron Barr, Krisa Thompson, Laurie Montgomery, Mattia Gold and Phil Rucker, as well as political journalist Josh Dawsey, according to three people familiar with the discussions.

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The New York Times reported in August that The Post was on track to end 2022 in the red after years of profitability. The Post has struggled to expand its subscription business, with fewer paying subscribers last year than the 3m in 2020, a presidential election year.

In recent months, The Post has seen an exodus of talent, including its chief information officer, chief communications officer, and director of production. Several of its top journalists have also left to work for rival publications.