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.”