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August 07 2013

_Inside the system:_ Open letter to Jeff Bezos - The Washington Post

Inside the system: Open letter to Jeff Bezos - The Washington Post

Un journaliste du WP espère que le libertaire Jeff Bezos respectera ses valeurs journalistiques féodales.

Back in 1982, when I was an editor at Tropic, the Miami Herald’s Sunday magazine, the publisher asked us to run a story on our cover about the winners of The Silver Knight award, which was given out every year at a gala to the most promising high school seniors in the Miami area. The Silver Knights were a fine and noble enterprise, but the event was run and financed by Knight-Ridder, the corporate owners of The Miami Herald; Herald stories about the Silver Knight awards were inevitably uncritical, nakedly celebratory, and drenched in self-promotion. We at Tropic declined to run the story of the awards on the grounds that we were a small magazine trying to establish a feisty, pugnacious identity, and being a corporate suckup toady lickspittle didn’t fit in with our plans. The publisher glowered, muttered something about insubordination, and steered the story to another, less visible section of the paper. We went unpunished.

Wikipedia tells me that one of the Silver Knight winners that year was little Jeffrey Bezos of Miami Palmetto High School. Haha.

You and I briefly crossed paths as younger men, and I dissed you. I guess it’s clear who won that race.

Here’s the thing: We were right to decline that story, Jeff, but, more to the point, our publisher was wise to LET us decline. In the next 10 years, freed to robustly experiment with an outsize personality, Tropic would develop a fanatic following in Miami, and our writers and photographers would win two Pulitzers and be finalists for two more. That happened because the people above us trusted us, if grudgingly, and — more important — had our backs.


“Kick up, kiss down.” Aggravate your bosses, but make the people below you love and respect you. Katharine Graham and Don Graham were brilliant at this — they must have given their board of directors fits, because during the great years they chose aggressive journalism over pennypinching every time — and we loved them for it. It’s an irreplaceable advantage, loyalty drawn from affection and respect.

En temps de crise les sous-officiers du capitalisme espèrent sauver leur fortune en appellant à leur chefs de se comporter en bons seigneurs avec leurs vassaux.

Héritière du compagnonnage d’arme du haut Moyen Âge, la vassalité est la situation de dépendance d’un homme libre envers son seigneur par la cérémonie de l’hommage. Le système féodo-vassalique s’est développé à cause de l’affaiblissement de l’autorité publique après l’effondrement de l’empire carolingien (Xe - XIe siècle) : l’empereur, les rois et bientôt les princes territoriaux étaient incapables de faire régner l’ordre et d’imposer leur pouvoir aux seigneurs locaux. Un réseau de relations d’homme à homme s’impose donc, donnant des droits et des devoirs pour chacun d’entre eux, une pyramide sociale allant théoriquement du roi au grand seigneur (grand feudataire), seigneur, vassal et arrière-vassal (Vavasseur) mais dont l’effectivité dépend de l’autorité du supérieur.

Et hop, voilà l’essentiel de ce que pense le nouveau chef :

There will, of course, be change at The Post over the coming years. That’s essential and would have happened with or without new ownership. The Internet is transforming almost every element of the news business: shortening news cycles, eroding long-reliable revenue sources, and enabling new kinds of competition, some of which bear little or no news-gathering costs. There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment. Our touchstone will be readers, understanding what they care about – government, local leaders, restaurant openings, scout troops, businesses, charities, governors, sports – and working backwards from there.

Jeff Bezos par contre ne promet rien sauf la recherche constante de profitabilité. C’est une réponse digne d’un des plus riches libertaires du monde.

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