The billionaires have mostly kept half of that promise, protecting journalists’ jobs and meddling little. But the other half of the plan — to find new models — has remained largely unfulfilled, as the money-losing outlets all continue to rely on their owners’ goodwill for survival, according to people at each outlet. And now all face questions of strategy and morale that are the flip side of dependence on a wealthy benefactor.
The clearest struggles are at the Washington Post, which effectively admitted defeat last year in its attempts to rebuild its core as a scalable tech business with products called Zeus and Arc. Now it’s simply a media company that battled The New York Times for Trump scoops but has no answer to its rival’s success in other areas, such as cooking, audio, and games. Bezos visited last week to calm a restive newsroom.
The others follow a similar,if less publicly painful, pattern. The Los Angeles Times has rebuilt its newsroom and improved its local lifestyle coverage, but its strategy remains adrift under Soon-Shiong, who has taken the title of “Executive Chairman” and has not appointed a CEO.