The Good and the Bad of Warren Buffett Buying a Newspaper

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The ever magnanimous Warren Buffett announced today he is buying his hometown newspaper, the Omaha World-Heraldreports The Wall Street Journal. Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett's company, will also get the five smaller dailies the World-Herald owns in the deal, whose terms have not been disclosed

So what will the new management mean for the main rag in Nebraska's largest city? On the one hand, the move comes off as Buffett rescuing his hometown paper. "Buffett told Berkshire shareholders two years ago that most newspapers face the possibility of unending losses because the industry has lost its essential nature," reports The Washington Post. But Buffett says that the World-Herald is in better shape than most, with The Journal adding that "the deal is consistent with the company’s legacy of local ownership." So maybe the purchase isn't entirely profit-driven. 

But on the other hand, consider what's happening at the other daily Berkshire's owned since 1977: The Buffalo News. Buffalo Business First reported in October the good news that that paper remains profitable with $16.2 million in earnings last year. But it's been trying to rein in costs for years by trimning the newsroom:

Yet, since 2009, the Guild has seen 100 of its members leave the paper, mostly through buy-out offers and early-retirement packages offered by the News. In the newsroom alone 30 staffers, including some of its most respected and well-read reporters and columnists, have left the paper through the buy-out packages.

Today, the newspaper's writers are circling their wagons as the paper prepares for more cuts while new contracts are being negotiated. "Guild members, every Friday, wear black articles of clothing to show their solidarity and angst concerning the prolonged contract talks," Business First noted.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.