Jeff Bezos ‘sets off fresh wave of panic’ at Washington Post by unexpectedly turning up for morning editorial meeting – as staff brace for layoffs
- Jeff Bezos made a rare appearance at a Washington Post meeting on Thursday
- His visit came a month after its publisher Fred Ryan announced layoffs
- He was confronted by a union member but refused to answer questions
Jeff Bezos made a surprise appearance at a Washington Post editorial meeting on Thursday morning for the first time in over a year.
His attendance in-person sparked fears among staff about the severity of upcoming layoffs by the newspaper, which he bought in 2013 with ambitions to drive it into the digital era.
In recent years the Washington Post has suffered dwindling ad revenue, a decline in site traffic and a shortage of new subscribers. Last month, its publisher Fred Ryan announced that layoffs were coming in the new year.
Despite his suggestion the cuts would likely only affect a ‘single-digit percentage’ of its 2,500-person workforce, the news triggered a frenzy among staff and the paper’s union membership grew.
Its union guild said it now has about 670 members, roughly 67 percent of those eligible, and that around 60 of those joined since the announcement in December.
Staff have been provided with little information about the layoffs and last month the Amazon CEO refused to comment on them, which meant his visit on Thursday only heightened panic.
Jeff Bezos (pictured here during a visit in 2016) made a surprise appearance at a Washington Post editorial meeting on Thursday morning for the first time in over a year
His attendance in-person sparked fears among staff about the severity of upcoming layoffs within newspaper, which he bought in 2013
‘[People] don’t know what to make of it,’ one journalist told The Daily Beast.
During the meeting Bezos remained fairly tight-lipped, as he sat next to The Post’s top editor, Sally Buzbee in a glass-windowed office on the sixth floor of the paper’s headquarters.
‘I’m delighted to be here and see all these faces,’ he announced at the beginning of the meeting, the New York Times reported. ‘Thank you for allowing me to listen in,’ he continued.
As he left the meeting an employee in a red shirt carrying the insignia of union stopped him to ask why he was planning to lay off staff without offering them buyouts.
Bezos responded that he had come to listen – not to answer questions – but emphasized that he was committed to the The Post’s journalism.
‘As Bezos walks through the office, we want him to see that Post employees are a powerful and united front,’ wrote the guild in an email to its members in the days before.
A guild member in a red shirt stopped Bezos after the meeting to ask why he was planning to lay off staff without offering them buyouts
A spokesperson for The Post confirmed the layoffs were still going to happen in the first quarter of this year but did not say exactly when
It said in a public statement on Thursday: ‘We hope that Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos has heard employees’ appeals for a stop to these impending layoffs that, as far as we can tell, are not financially necessary or rooted in any informed business strategy from publisher Fred Ryan.’
‘Jeff is visiting The Post this week and meeting with Fred Ryan, Sally Buzbee and other members of the staff,’ a representative for The Post wrote in an email to The Daily Beast.
The spokesperson confirmed the layoffs were still going to happen in the first quarter of this year but did not say exactly when.
The outlet reported the meeting transpired as it would on any other day, with editors discussing its current stories and trends in the news.
At one point an editor mentioned it was planning to run a story on the termination of AmazonSmile – one of Bezos’ charitable endeavors. That story was published at 11.37am on Thursday.
On Wednesday around 18,000 Amazon workers woke up to news their employment had bee terminated, ‘effective immediately’.
The layoffs were the latest in a series of cost cutting moves by Amazon and overseen by Bezos.