Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today made the following statement on the sale of the Washington Post to Jeffrey Bezos, after four generations of ownership by the Graham family.
"The sale of the Washington Post puts my practical and strategic self at war with my sentimental side. I remember the Washington Post as the hometown paper that came from being the second or third newspaper in the city, behind the Daily News and the Evening Star, to one of the leading news sources in the country, outliving its city rivals. The paper's departure from conservative publishers, for which American newspapers are well known, and its editorial posture often fit the progressive city that the District became as the Post rose to prominence. Above all, the Post was a hometown newspaper in every sense of the word. Its publishers, for four generations, spent personal time nurturing local D.C., even serving on committees to improve city schools and the city itself. Donald Graham took Kay Graham's work as a civic leader to new levels as the architect of the D.C. Tuition Access Grant program that has doubled college attendance here, and as the co-founder of the D.C. College Access Program.
"What keeps me from mourning the passage of the hometown paper from the nation's capital is the sale to Jeffery Bezos. I hope and I suspect that in buying the newspaper, which is not profitable, Bezos is seriously interested in saving American journalism itself. He surely already understands that it is newspapers that make the First Amendment part of daily life in America, particularly in their role as watchdog for the people of the government. He almost surely appreciates that the Post's deep stories, investigative journalism and coverage of foreign affairs distinguish it from the new emerging media. You can't tweet what newspapers do, and if newspapers don't do it, it won't be done. Bezos must know that the Post gave its reporters the time and latitude to become experts that broke stories that otherwise might never have been told.
"I also choose to draw from Bezos' decision to leave the paper's publisher Katharine Weymouth, Graham's niece, and its current staff, in place, that Bezos has some appreciation for the role the Post plays as the hometown paper for the nation's capital. D.C., the most disempowered city in the country, without many of the basic rights that Americans in Bezos' home state of Washington take for granted, needs its own local voice.
"There must be a way to bring the Post and other newspapers into the digital 21st-century without tearing out its soul. Don Graham seems to believe he has left his family's legacy intact. He can count on D.C. to not only be thankful, but watchful."