Omaha editor: ‘I’ve never seen less cynicism in a room full of newspaper employees’

Omaha World-Herald
Executive Editor Mike Reilly describes the feeling at the paper Wednesday when it was announced billionaire Warren Buffett would be buying the organization from its employees:

“Buffett received a standing ovation from more than 200 employee shareholders after [Publisher Terry] Kroeger detailed how and why the deal had come about, leaving little doubt that the plan will win formal approval Dec. 20. In my 30 years as a journalist, I’ve never seen less cynicism in a room full of newspaper employees.”

Reilly writes, “This newspaper still makes good money; it’s just not the cash cow it once was.”

At the meeting when the purchase was announced, Buffett said the paper was a viable investment.

“From what I see, I think The World-Herald will earn a reasonable return on the money we’re laying out for it. It doesn’t have a comparable future economically to certain other businesses we have. So be it.”

Buffett told the paper that his familiarity with the community was important.

“Unquestionably the fact that I know this community has a great future is a factor,” Buffett said. “If there’s any place a newspaper will do well, it will be in a state and a city that is growing. Retailers are coming here. The city will expand over time. And it will always have a strong sense of community.

“That is key to a newspaper.”

While some employees may be skeptical that Buffett will be hands-off, Omaha native and Buffalo News Publisher Stan Lipsey told the World-Herald the 81-year-old is “a dream owner.”

“He loves newspapers, and he understands journalism and its importance in our democracy.”

How it happened: During a fishing trip in Alaska last summer, Berkshire Hathaway board member Walter Scott suggested to a paper trustee that Publisher Terry Kroeger talk with him. In early October they met and on Oct. 18, Scott told Kroeger, “Warren would like to buy the company.” || What’s next: Shareholders vote on the purchase Dec. 20, which could be completed three days later if the sale is approved.

Correction: The original Poynter.org version of this story misspelled Stan Lipsey’s name.

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