Warren Buffett’s hometown paper, Omaha World-Herald, has lost a third of its reporters since early 2018.
Buffett, the billionaire businessman who delivered newspapers as a teenager, bought the Omaha World-Herald in 2011, according to MarketWatch, which first reported the news. The World-Herald newsroom formed a union last fall.
Buffett is bearish on the local media industry, telling Yahoo Finance editor-in-chief Andy Serwer on Saturday: “They’re going to disappear.”
Over the years, the newspaper ad business has deteriorated, he said. “It went from monopoly to franchise to competitive to ... toast.”
Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns 30 daily newspaper and digital operations, as well as 47 paid weekly newspapers and 32 other print products.
Buffett echoed these sentiments in an interview with CNBC in 2017, when he claimed: “There are only two papers in the United States that I think have an assured future because they have a successful Internet model to go with their print mode. That’s The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times,” which have built “an online presence that people will pay for."
Last summer, Berkshire Hathaway made Lee Enterprises the new manager of the Omaha World-Herald. The company owns about 50 local publications.
In the MarketWatch op-ed, financial columnist Brett Arends poses the question: “If local reporters don’t cover the local courts, and City Hall, and zoning board meetings, and the goings-on of the local chamber of commerce, who will?”
In the past 15 years, 1,800 newspapers have shuttered. About 200 counties have no local newspaper, and roughly half the counties in the country with only one, according to a University of North Carolina study.
Another newspaper lost a third of its staff recently, but in one month. The Cleveland Plain Dealer let go of at least 14 people as it moved to outsource production jobs to a subsidiary of Advance Publications, the paper’s parent company.Last week, Advance's local media arm sold The Times-Picayune, New Orleans’ 182-year-old daily newspaper, to rival newspaper The Advocate. Days later, The Advocate let go of all 161 Times-Picayune staff staffers. The Advocate says it plans to hire some of them back, but no word on how many.