June 1, 2012

New Orleans musician Evan Christopher wrote an open letter to Warren Buffett last week, and the billionaire newspaper owner has responded:

Naturally I’ve been following the Times-Pic situation with interest.  I don’t know any of the facts on their profitability but was really surprised when they made the announcement.  It seems to me that three days a week is simply unsustainable over the longer term.  Either a publication is a newspaper or a periodical and I think three days a week crosses the line. …

The one thing I’m quite sure of: It would not work to start a competing paper. I have no insight as to whether the Newhouse family would sell the Times-Pic to a local group.  They do not have a history of selling anything. That’s something a member of the community should explore.  Let me know if you learn more.

Optimists will note that Buffett did not say he wouldn’t buy the paper. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway last month purchased 63 papers from Media General following the purchase of his hometown paper, the Omaha World-Herald in November. He has said he would buy more newspapers: “Any time we can add properties we like, to management we like, at a price we like, we’re ready to go.”

The Times-Picayune isn’t the only Advance paper facing cuts in publishing and staff. The company’s three Alabama papers, including Mobile’s Press-Register, will also reduce printing to three days a week. Press-Register cartoonist J.D. Crowe writes, “Digital. Dig it, al? Things are changing and we’re all gonna have to adjust. Even our paper-fetching dogs.”

Staffers at the Advance papers are expected to start hearing next week about specific job cuts and related changes. (Cartoon republished with permission.)
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Julie Moos (jmoos@poynter.org) has been Director of Poynter Online and Poynter Publications since 2009. Previously, she was Editor of Poynter Online (2007-2009) and Poynter Publications…
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