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Bezos reassures Post editors in first outreach since Buzbee exit

The owner of the Washington Post, Jeff Bezos, sought to reassure his journalists on Tuesday by speaking for the first time directly to the Post editorial team since the abrupt departure of its editor-in-chief and a whirlwind of questions about the journalistic standards of some newly appointed leaders.

“You have my full commitment to maintaining the quality, ethics and standards we all believe in,” he wrote to a dozen editors in an email, which was quickly leaked to journalists who shared it on social media.

The post represents the owner’s most public comment since William Lewis, the company’s publisher and CEO for five months, announced the departure of editor-in-chief Sally Buzbee and a sweeping reorganization of the newsroom two weeks ago .

Since then, several recent news articles, including in The Post, have highlighted allegations that Lewis and Robert Winnett – a British editor appointed to oversee the news division in November – engaged in journalistic practices that go against the standards of most media outlets. American Newsrooms.

Bezos wrote to publishers that “we must change as a company.” But, he added, “as editors who have shaped and guided our coverage, you also know that our standards at the Post have always been very high. This can’t change – and it won’t.

The billionaire founder of Amazon bought The Post in 2013. He hired Lewis in November to oversee the company, which was facing a $77 million deficit and declining readership, according to company officials .

A rare editorial presence, Bezos is generally in closer contact with company management rather than its editorial ranks, which have been in turmoil since Buzbee’s unexpected departure, announced to staff in a Sunday email. evening June 2.

In his Tuesday memo, he directly referenced Lewis, who told staff in small meetings last week that as editor he would never interfere with the journalism produced by the newsroom.

“I know Will has already told you this,” Bezos wrote, “but I also wanted to chime in directly: The Post’s journalistic standards and ethics will not change.”

Bezos could not be reached for additional comment.

According to people familiar with their interactions, Bezos had been working closely with Lewis as he developed a plan for a “third newsroom” — a division of the company that would be separate from traditional news and opinion and focus on service to the public. does not currently consume The Post, although the details of its operation remain opaque. Winnett would oversee traditional news operations after the 2024 elections.

On Saturday, the New York Times reported that Winnett and Lewis, while working as journalists in the United Kingdom, had based some reporting on stolen phone records. The report also raises questions about a payment made for information that led to a 2009 investigation into government corruption that shook Britain’s political establishment and led to the resignations of several officials.

On Sunday, The Post — citing unpublished book chapters and other documents — revealed new details about Winnett’s collaboration with a self-described “thief” who used illicit means to obtain confidential information that appeared in news articles .

Neither Winnett nor Lewis responded to the Post or the Times about this information.

Amid these new reports, The Post canceled a dinner it had planned to host Monday evening at the annual Cannes Lions International Festival advertising and media gathering in the south of France.

Previous reports described Lewis trying to dissuade journalists from covering his involvement in a long-running British phone hacking trial. Lewis denied trying to discourage Post reporters from covering the story. He called an NPR reporter who described a similar encounter an “activist, not a journalist.”

“The Washington Post sets and models the highest ethical standards in journalism, to which every Post employee is expected to adhere,” a Post spokesperson said.

On Tuesday, Bezos gave a nod to the journalism coming from the Post editorial team: “A huge thank you for continuing to do the work that makes us all proud and that makes this institution so important. »

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News Source : www.washingtonpost.com

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