The August Dateline: Washington event at the Kansas City Public Library was supposed to be about outer space. Just outer space.
Host David Von Drehle and The Washington Post’s Joel Achenbach were to talk about the future of NASA and the American space program now that our astronauts are being launched from sites in Russia.
But the recent sale of The Post to billionaire Jess Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon.com, gives special meaning to the event.
Not only is Achenbach a current Washington Post employee, but Von Drehle is a former Post reporter. So it’s only natural that they will devote part of the evening to discussing this seismic upheaval in the world of American journalism.
Why should those of us in Kansas City care about the sale of the Post?
“Because as goes The Washington Post, so go newspapers all over the country,” Von Drehle says. “It may be a globally famous publication, but its business model is the same as metropolitan dailies all over the country. Also, it has a particular role as the hometown newspaper for our center of government, and as such has a particular watchdog role which many of us think is worth preserving.
“On top of that, the buyer is someone very interesting. Rather than selling to another newspaper company, The Post is going to someone you might not expect to get into this business. And that raises questions.”
Achenbach has pioneered the Post’s forays into online journalism. Von Drehle is editor-at-large for Time magazine and a Kansas City resident.
This series is made possible by Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation Legacy Fund grants to the Kansas City Public Library and the Truman Library Institute.