Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Not What Was Expected

Even the most impulsive people have expectations of how things are supposed to work in life. For example, town hall meetings with members of Congress are generally expected to be forums where constituents speak and Congressmembers are forced to pay attention - not literal war zones, like in a small town in Pennsylvania last night.

It's frustrating but almost certain that some town hall meetings this month aren't going to work out the way either Congressmembers or constituents expect them to - at times because some members of Congress have no intention of truly listening.

More this year than ever before, we recommend you get prepared and get involved in the meetings and events of your Congresspersons and Senators, as they visit their home districts over this month's recess. Part of that preparation might include a visit to websites like Accountable Congress, that can help you find the next town hall in your area, and even help you form some intelligent questions to ask your member of Congress.

We also highly recommend that you follow the advice of Thomas Jefferson and make sure you're well-informed before you get involved in your government. To us, that means reading a first-rate newspaper every day, like The Washington Post.

Of course, the Post announced its own seriously unexpected change Monday afternoon, one that many in the media, including our staff members, are still trying to process.

In case you missed it, the short details of the change are simple. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, has agreed to buy the Washington Post newspaper, and few of its related print products, including a few smaller newspapers. Bezos did not buy every part of The Washington Post Company (which will have to change its name), so some very important news sites like Slate and The Grio will remain publicly owned.

The paper itself, however, will be solely owned by Bezos, who made it clear in his message to Post employees, "The values of The Post do not need changing. The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners."

No one is really sure what to make of the deal yet. Many are saying this is the end of an era. That one of the nation's most important news sources will no longer be tied to the insane demands of Wall Street is something we can certainly applaud. Still, the idea of a single hyper-wealthy owner controlling one of the nation's most important newspapers brings to mind the kinds of yellow journalism so prevalent during America's first Gilded Age - and sadly, so common among right-wing media today.

Still, we've been cheered by looking at Bezos' former experience as part of a media ownership team, when he invested in the website Business Insider this past year. As many in the media have noted, during that time Business Insider's journalism and overall quality has improved, while the voices of their investors - like Jeff Bezos - continue to remain silent.

We hope that Mr. Bezos recognizes the incredible value of Post staff clusters like Ezra Klein's Wonkblog group and Greg Sargent's Plum Line group - but like Post writer Jim Tankersley noted, we also hope Bezos can help find a modern business model that will allow the Washington Post to continue being one of the nation's best newspapers.

With all the insanity in our national politics, now more than ever Americans need to have trustworthy news sources that deliver what we should always expect from our best news organizations: The truth.

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