Worth a read on the future of newspapers: Warren Buffet’s letter to publishers and editors and Tim McGuire’s This I Believe

Berkshire will probably purchase more papers in the next few years. We will favor towns and cities with a strong sense of community, comparable to the 26 in which we will soon operate. If a citizenry cares little about its community, it will eventually care little about its newspaper. In a very general way, strong interest in community affairs varies inversely with population size and directly with the number of years a community’s population has been in residence. Therefore, we will focus on small and mid-sized papers in long-established communities. -Warren Buffet in a letter to the Publishers and Editors of Berkshire Hathaways’s Daily Newspapers

A couple of future of newspaper/journalism pieces have crossed my radar a few times over the past couple of weeks, and I thought I’d pass them along. Warren Buffet wrote a letter to publishers and editors of newspapers owned by his investment and insurance company Berkshire Hathaway, outlining his interest in newspaper journalism and a positive view for the future. One of the world’s wealthiest people and frequently considered one of the most influential, Buffet usually has something interesting to say. His letters to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders are well worth a read. His letter to editors and publishers is an interesting look at the current business of community news, and he suggests that Berkshire Hathaway will continue to invest in small and medium-sized papers.

“Covering city council meetings and boring feature stories on school principals will not cut it. Successful news operations will redefine local news as true accountability reporting in local areas. They will make the issues from that city council meeting relevant to people concerned about the livability of their city. That will require real reporting resources and it cannot be done on the cheap. Newspapers and TV news operations need to face that fact that they are not nearly as good as they need to be. There is too much content that’s simply not compelling in major regional newspapers. Hell, much of it is boring.” -Tim McGuire, This I believe about journalism, newspapers and the future of media

On a slightly different note, Tim McGuire details both his concern for the present and hope for the future in This I believe about journalism, newspapers and the future of media. A longtime newspaperman and Pulitzer winner/juror, McGuire worries about the current path of newspapers and other news organizations who are focused on adapting the old financial models of journalism to the new media economy. There’s plenty of room to innovate, he says, and newspapers need to stop being boring and start making content that’s relevant to people’s lives. Use news from the community and the nation to inform readers about what’s going on and how it will affect them. McGuire’s thoughts aren’t revolutionary, but they’re well put and worth a read. Gutted staffs at newspapers probably can’t afford to do everything McGuire suggests, but as more and more papers are cutting back on circulation and publishing frequency, hopefully some changes can be made.

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