Jeff Bezos Delivers Reality Check To WaPo Employees Complaining About Leadership Shakeup

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As his newly appointed executives weather an onslaught of public backlash, Amazon founder and Washington Post (WaPo) owner Jeff Bezos said in a Tuesday staff-wide email that “business as usual” is no longer an option, according to The New York Times’ Ben Mullin.

WaPo publisher Will Lewis and the two men he tapped to take over for departed executive editor Sally Buzbee have faced intense criticism, prompting Bezos to assure staff that “the journalistic standards and ethics at the Post will not change.”

Bezos went on to note, however, that the paper has lost half of its subscriber base since 2020 and was $77 million in the red for 2023.

“To be sure, it can’t be business as usual at the Post. The world is evolving rapidly and we do need to change as a business,” Bezos wrote.

In the memo, Bezos mentions embattled publisher Will Lewis, who’s seen a groundswell of media criticism in the wake of his decision to replace Buzbee with former Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief Matthew Murray in the interim and with The Telegraph’s deputy editor Robert Winnett after the November election.

Staff criticized Lewis’ hires, asking him whether “any women or people of color were interviewed and seriously considered for either of these positions,” and telling him it “sort of feels like you chose two of your buddies to come in and help run the Post, and we now have four white men running three newsrooms,” according to Vanity Fair’s Charlotte Klein. (RELATED: Liberal Media At A Crossroads — Start Winning Again, Or Cave To Ideologically-Obsessed Activists)

WaPo itself published an excoriating hit piece on Sunday, accusing Winnett of using stolen materials in reporting while at the Sunday Times.

Then, on Tuesday, The Hollywood Reporter published an attempted takedown of Murray. The article highlighted a story The Wall Street Journal ran in 2022 while Murray was the paper’s editor. The exposé alleged that Elon Musk had an affair with Nicole Shanahan, the ex-wife of Google co-founder Sergey Brin and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s current presidential running mate.

Musk denied the story, prompting Murray to convene the reporters who worked on it and “[launch] profanities throughout the tense 45-minute call,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

A wide range of largely left-leaning critics seem to be attempting to drive Lewis and his handpicked editors out of the paper.

NPR’s David Folkenflik, who accused Will Lewis of attempting to trade him an exclusive in exchange for burying a story about Lewis’ role in a decade-old phone hacking scandal involving media mogul Rupert Murdoch, claimed recently that Winnett will “never step foot in DC as WaPo editor.”

Jay Rosen, a professor of journalism at NYU, took aim at the Post’s standards, the very standards Bezos sought to guarantee in his memo.

“When Will Lewis and Rob Winnett declined to answer Post reporters’ questions they set a low standard for what the Post requires of itself,” he tweeted Monday. “Not what you want in your top people.”

Another left-wing journalist, New York Magazine contributing editor Kara Swisher, also piled on, calling Lewis a “hot mess” on Tuesday’s episode of her podcast, “Pivot.”

Her co-host, Scott Galloway, agreed. “At the end of the day, if the newsroom is in open revolt, Bezos needs to fire him and say ‘it sucks to be a grownup, you’ve lost the confidence in the newsroom it’s time to move along,'” he said.

Despite the wave of reproach, Bezos decision to refer to Lewis by name in the memo appears to signal that the embattled publisher still has the backing of the big boss.