Ethical journalists are to avoid conflicts of interests, yet The Washington Post’s owner was just honored for his extensive gay rights activism.
Post owner Jeff Bezos, who also owns Amazon, received the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) National Equality Award on Nov. 28, 2017. In his acceptance speech, he claimed to want Amazon employees to be “empowered to speak their mind and to be heard.”
HRC describes itself as the “largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization.” Its National Equality Award recognizes “the outstanding efforts of those who publicly stand up for the LGBTQ community, committing their time and energy to improve the lives of LGBTQ people and advance equality for all Americans.”
“Every Amazonian should feel comfortable sharing their unique perspectives and every Amazonian should seek out the perspectives of others,” Bezos added.
While the sentiment sounded amiable, the context of the speech made clear the “equality” he wanted at Amazon was total acceptance and affirmation of gay marriage and the LGBT lifestyle.
Bezos received the award in part because he was “one of the largest financial backers of the fight for marriage equality,” HRC said. He spent at least $2.5 million pushing Washington state to legally recognize gay marriage in 2012.
Bezos’ activism wouldn’t be a problem, except he owns The Washington Post. The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics instructs journalists to “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.”
While Bezos is not a journalist himself, his activism reflects strongly on the companies he owns, including Amazon and The Post. When Bezos purchased The Post in 2013, he stated “The values of The Post do not need changing,” despite the newspaper’s already established liberal bias.
Bezos’ statement on employees feeling “comfortable” talking about their “unique perspectives” is especially ironic since the tech industry has shown in the past it does not actually respect unique perspectives. Google for example fired an employee for sharing his opinion just three months ago.
In a memo sent to employees, James Damore accused Google of fostering a liberal environment and also touted the unpopular opinion that women are not as involved in the tech industry because of biological differences. Damore was fired days later.