Mr. Fix-It Eyes Jeff Bezos

By Casey Bukro

Consumer Advocate Ralph Nader says he is speaking for longtime readers of the Washington Post when he asks how independent the newspaper will be under Jeff Bezos’ ownership.

In an open letter to the Post, Nader says the public has been treated to profiles depicting the new boss’s business successes and his personal style and demeanor.

“What we have not been told is how the newspaper is going to shield itself from Mr. Bezos’ far-flung business interests in order to maintain reader credibility and trust,” Nader wrote.

Nader is known for his bulldog tenacity in making corporate leaders sweat over consumer issues like environmental protection and auto safety. He has some advice for Bezos, who acquired ownership of the Washington Post in a $250 million deal in which he would become sole owner of the newspaper and its publishing company.

“Mr. Bezos would do well to reestablish the longtime ombudsman post which was abolished in March of this year, presumably to save money,” wrote Nader. “For an ombudsman’s role is not just to be an internal critic at the paper but also to be the reader’s coherent voice on the ways the Washington Post is being managed.”

The Post in March said the ombudsman would be replaced by a reader representative, ending a 43-year practice of employing an ombudsman who wrote a long-standing Sunday column.

At the time, Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth wrote that the ombudsman’s “duties are as critical today as ever. Yet it is time that the way these duties are performed evolves.”

About cbukro

Casey Bukro was inducted into the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame in 2008 for outstanding contributions to Chicago journalism, after a 45 year career with the Chicago Tribune. Bukro retired from the Tribune in 2007 as overnight editor. He had pioneered in environmental reporting and in 1970 became the first full-time environment specialist at a major metropolitan newspaper in the United States and covered major developments on that beat for 30 years. He won the newspaper’s highest editorial award in 1967 for a series on Great Lakes pollution. The Society of Professional Journalists awarded Bukro its highest honor, the Wells Key, in 1983 for writing that organization’s first code of ethics. He is a past president of SPJ’s national ethics committee and a past president of the Chicago Headline Club. Bukro graduated with bachelor and master degrees from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. In 1998, he received the Northwestern University Alumni Association’s alumni service award for 17 years of volunteer service to the university. He has lectured in environmental journalism and journalism ethics at Northwestern, the University of Chicago, DePaul University, Loyola University Chicago, Columbia College, Columbia University and others. Before joining the Tribune staff, Bukro worked at the former City News Bureau of Chicago and the Janesville Gazette, Janesville, Wis.

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