News that Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, agreed to purchase The Washington Post for $250 million sent shockwaves through the national media. The combination of pearl clutching and teeth gnashing about "what this means" for journalism would have been amusing if it was not so hypocritical. For years all we've heard about is the idea that print journalism was dying, its relevance shunted aside in an age of blogs, news aggregation sites and cable television. The WaPo sale (and last week's fire sale of The Boston Globe for $70 million, less than 10% of what The New York Times purchased it for more than a decade ago) was seen as a defining moment cementing this narrative. The fear, vaguely alluded to, is that somehow the august reputation of The Washington Post may be sullied if owned by a single, über wealthy individual.
Of course, this trope was being uttered on airwaves controlled by corporate overlords whose own empires are tentacled across every conceivable information delivery method. Consider one of the most egregious violators - MSNBC. Sitting in for Chris Hayes last night, Ezra Klein spent the first 40 minutes of All In With Chris discussing the sale of a media outlet from a family of rich people (the Grahams) to a single rich person (Bezos) on airwaves controlled by an obscenely wealthy company. MSNBC is a cable station owned by Comcast. Comcast not only delivers cable television into tens of millions of homes throughout the country, as part of its purchase of NBC Universal, it acquired more than a dozen TV channels, including NBC. So how it is that a news anchor on airwaves controlled by a enormous media conglomerate can express such concern over the sale of a newspaper to a billionaire? More importantly, how can a viewer take such a critique seriously?
And this is not to pick on Comcast-owned MSNBC. The same hyperbolic reaction could be found on ABC (a division of some company called "Disney"), CBS (controlled by multibillionaire Sumner Redstone) and FOX (owned by Rupert Murdoch, who also owns high profile newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post). Pretty remarkable considering The Washington Post has a daily circulation of less than 500,000 and has been on the decline for years. But in the insular world of national media and "This Town" mentality that does little but stare at itself in the mirror and consider its own unique role in the "decisions that matter," the sale of The Washington Post was a capital B, capital F, capital D, never mind that most Americans, if they do know of the paper, remember it from breaking the Watergate story 40 years ago, not, for example, its mindless cheerleading of the run-up to the Iraq War (along with most of the rest of its ilk) or decimation of its newsroom within the past few years. The Post sale, and the less reported sale of TV stations by Allbritton for nearly $1 billion that will be used to expand Politico,  speaks to the view of smart money that news is very much a growth industry, but only in the two places it seems to matter anymore - Washington, D.C. and New York City.
In fact, media at the national level is doing quite well. The New York Times introduced a "modified paywall" in the past year or so that has helped generate tens of million of dollars in ad revenue and has more than 738,000 subscribers.  Over at CBS, an all-time record in quarterly revenue of $3.7 billion was just reported.  It is not "national" level media that is suffering, but the little fish in the journalistic pond, who no longer have the resources to cover run of the mill stories of corruption, governmental malfeasance or, god forbid, triumphs of the human spirit, that might matter to residents in their smaller communities. In New Jersey, where I live, a daily copy of the The Times of Trenton, which covers the state capital and government, the local shenanigans of the city of Trenton's politicians, not to mention the high profile town of Princeton, is a two-section daily that charges 75 cents and commonly has at least half of its "A" section devoted to wire stories from the Associated Press. This is simply not a sustainable business model. 
The media freak out over Bezos's purchase also ignores history. A hundred years ago, major newspapers, whose primacy was unquestioned in an era before television (or radio for that matter), had known and obvious political biases and were often manipulated by politicians and businessmen alike to slant coverage either for or against. The media landscape of 2013 is similar in some ways (the aforementioned consolidation) but dissimilar in one key respect - the democratization of information through the Internet affords people the opportunity to be far more circumspect consumers of the news. And while the risk of "confirmation bias" when one can shop a la carte for how s/he obtains "facts" is apparent,  that burden is on the shoulders of the reader - objective facts are accessible if one chooses to find them. In the meantime, talking heads on television and in what's left of the ink-stained print media can stop breaking my irony machine and go back to acting as stenographers for their corporate masters.
Follow me on Twitter - @scarylawyerguy
Follow me on Twitter - @scarylawyerguy
4. Indeed, the Times of Trenton's parent company, which runs the larger circulating Newark Star-Ledger has recently threatened to shut down if unions did not offer concessions to help keep the company afloat. http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2013/06/star-ledger_threatens_to_close_without_concessions_as_union_officials_reject_ultimatum.html