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Daily Archives: March 1, 2013

images-1Dear Washington Post readers:
We will appoint a reader representative shortly to address our readers’ concerns and questions. Unlike ombudsmen in the past, the reader representative will be a Post employee. The representative will not write a weekly column for the page but will write online and/or in the newspaper from time to time to address reader concerns, with responses from editors, reporters or business executives as appropriate.

In short, while we are not filling a position that was created decades ago for a different era, we remain faithful to the mission. We know that you, our readers, will hold us to that, as you should.
Katharine Weymouth
Publisher

* Read the Post publisher’s full letter about the reader rep (washingtonpost.com)
* Read the last independent Post ombudsman’s farewell memo (jimromenesko.com)

Warren Buffett’s latest report to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders includes these observations about newspapers:

* I love newspapers and, if their economics make sense, will buy them even when they fall far short of the size threshold we would require for the purchase of, say, a widget company. …At appropriate prices – and that means at a very low multiple of current earnings – we will purchase more papers of the type we like.
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* We do not believe that success will come from cutting either the news content or frequency of publication. Indeed, skimpy news coverage will almost certainly lead to skimpy readership. And the less-than-daily publication that is now being tried in some large towns or cities – while it may improve profits in the short term – seems certain to diminish the papers’ relevance over time.

* Berkshire’s cash earnings from its papers will almost certainly trend downward over time. Even a sensible Internet strategy will not be able to prevent modest erosion. At our cost, however, I believe these papers will meet or exceed our economic test for acquisitions. Results to date support that belief.

Here’s the part of Buffett’s report that’s devoted to newspapers:

We Buy Some Newspapers . . . Newspapers?

During the past fifteen months, we acquired 28 daily newspapers at a cost of $344 million. This may puzzle you for two reasons. First, I have long told you in these letters and at our annual meetings that the circulation, advertising and profits of the newspaper industry overall are certain to decline. That prediction still holds. Second, the properties we purchased fell far short of meeting our off-stated size requirements for acquisitions.

We can address the second point easily. [Berkshire second-in-command] Charlie [Munger] and I love newspapers and, if their economics make sense, will buy them even when they fall far short of the size threshold we would require for the purchase of, say, a widget company. Addressing the first point requires me to provide a more elaborate explanation, including some history.

News, to put it simply, is what people don’t know that they want to know. And people will seek their news – what’s important to them – from whatever sources provide the best combination of immediacy, ease of access, reliability, comprehensiveness and low cost. The relative importance of these factors varies with the nature of the news and the person wanting it.

Before television and the Internet, newspapers were the primary source for an incredible variety of news, a fact that made them indispensable to a very high percentage of the population. Whether your interests were international, national, local, sports or financial quotations, your newspaper usually was first to tell you the latest information. Indeed, your paper contained so much you wanted to learn that you received your money’s worth, even if only a small number of its pages spoke to your specific interests. Better yet, advertisers typically paid almost all of the product’s cost, and readers rode their coattails./CONTINUES Read More

UPDATE: The Tribune has finally reported this news.
——

Last February, a former reporter for the Chicago Tribune’s TribLocal suburban weekly sued the paper for overtime. Carolyn Rusin said the Tribune didn’t pay her and dozens of other TribLocal reporters time-and-a-half for their overtime work.
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This week, 46 former and current TribLocal reporters were told that a federal judge preliminarily approved a $660,000 settlement. (“The parties estimate that about $413,000.00 will be available for distribution to class members,” says the settlement document. Lawyers will get the rest of the money.)

Ex-TribLocal staffer Rusin will receive her overtime pay and a $10,000 “Representative Service Award” for her work on the suit.

“We think it’s a great settlement,” the journalists’ attorney, Maureen A. Salas, told me this morning. “We’re optimistic it will get final approval” at the June 4 hearing.

The largest check – $18,468.09 – will go to Annemarie Mannion. “I’m not sure I want to comment,” she told me this afternoon. Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman also declined comment.

The list of reporters and the amounts they’re getting is after the jump. Read More

Rob Walker, who wrote the New York Times Magazine “Consumed” column for many years, has joined Yahoo News as a technology columnist.

Rob Walker

Rob Walker

“His work will appear on the recently expanded and redesigned Technology section of Yahoo! News, which provides daily coverage of new innovations, trends and breaking news,” says the press release. (Disclosure: Walker interviewed me several years ago about my Starbucks Gossip site. The Q-and-A was posted on his Murketing blog.)

Read the release after the jump. Read More

exclusive* Bob Woodward’s the new hero of the right. (nytimes.com) | (washingtonpost.com) || New York Post’s Woodward cartoon. (nypost.com)
* Joel Achenbach has a problem with Gawker’s piece on Woodward. (washingtonpost.com)
* Michael Hastings defends Woodward. (buzzfeed.com)
* “Sorry, ‘Today,’ but Woodward’s umpteenth stop on his media tour is not an ‘exclusive.'” (@DylanByers)
* Chicago Sun-Times sports reporter Mark Lazerus brings good luck to teams. (chicagosidesports.com)
* Jack Shafer says New York Times has two alternatives: Continue to downsize or sell to a billionaire like Mike Bloomberg. (reuters.com)
* U.S. Supreme Court should rethink its ban on cameras, says Rem Rieder. (usatoday.com)
* News organizations don’t focus enough on what’s coming next. (niemanlab.org)
* Brad Smith leaves the New York Times to become Sports Illustrated director of photography. (nppa.org)
* Hidden LA sues Los Angeles Magazine over name. (laobserved.com)
* Lucy Morgan: “Today is my last day at work for the Tampa Bay Times – 48 years of reporting Florida news.” (facebook.com/lucytimes)
* Safeway is working hard to shift from mass print advertising to targeted digital marketing. (newsosaur.blogspot.com)
* Jeff Bercovici: It’s a little jarring to see BuzzFeed partner links on Fark. (forbes.com)
* How *do* you get someone at the New York Times to listen to your news tip? (washingtonpost.com)
* Don’t worry; we can handle it: “Some pay-TV executives say that full ‘a la carte’ could be overwhelming for viewers.” (online.wsj.com)