When the great Washington restaurant Le Pavillon closed in 1990, chef Yannick Cam theorized that, like great art, great food needed a patron, someone who would support, nurture and ultimately pay for the quality that the market would not.
Cam was obsessed with quality and paid whatever it cost to have the ultimate mushroom or the freshest sea urchins; he charged a lot, but not enough to cover his artistry.
I thought of him when I read the news that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos would be purchasing The Washington Post.
With great news organizations folding or being sold at a fraction of what they were once worth, we have entered a new era: A top media organization now needs people willing to support it beyond its means to support itself.
We live in a world in which the economics of the news business have been revolutionized; information wants "to be free" is the smug phrase.
The aggregators of news content are worth more than the institutions that create the content, as we saw recently with the sale of a former Post property, Newsweek.
But where would those aggregators be without The Post, The Times, the Economist, the New Yorker and the Atlantic, to mention a few of a dwindling number of institutions that actually do the hard and expensive work of reporting?
This is the central challenge for a serious journalistic enterprise: how to get people to pay for the work.
No one has figured it out, and a lot of very smart people have tried.
For now, we have to rely on patrons to save journalism. What kind of patron will Bezos be?