Love of newspapers lifelong affair

Published 12:28 am Saturday, May 26, 2012

“I’ve loved newspapers all of my life – and always will,” wrote billionaire Warren Buffett in a letter to employees of newspapers his company, Berkshire Hathaway, is set to acquire.

I have, too.

Among the earliest of my memories is sitting with my younger brother on Sunday mornings as Daddy read us the “funny papers.” We subscribed to at least three daily newspapers at our house when we were growing up, and Lord only knows how many weeklies.

And so I, like many Alabamians, was in a state something akin to shock on Thursday when news leaked out that the state’s three largest dailies, The Press-Register of Mobile, The Birmingham News, and The Huntsville Times, will no longer be dailies come fall.

The New York Times actually scooped the media group, owned by Newhouse Newspapers, on its own story, forcing the hand of the New Orleans Times-Picayune early in the day. After The NYT reported that it had heard this from unnamed sources, The Times-Picayune quickly announced its plans to go to three days a week and beef up its online coverage.

Within hours, the Alabama papers followed suit. At some point in the fall, the newspaper I’m accustomed to finding in my driveway every morning will be delivered only on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Friday, when the announcements were made in their print editions, they spun the story differently.

“Newspaper to move focus to digital” was the headline in New Orleans, where a separate story reported that local residents wanted to buy the newspaper to keep it daily.

“Changes coming to The News,” was the lead story in Birmingham. In Mobile, they called the changes “exciting” in big, bold letters.

I haven’t found a soul who agrees with their headline.

And so it was in the midst of this turmoil that Buffett’s letter to his new employees was released. Some of the 63 newspapers he’s acquiring are in Alabama – Opelika and Dothan among them.

“I believe newspapers that intensively cover their communities will have a good future,” he wrote.

In emphasizing the importance of local news, he added, “No one has ever stopped reading when half-way through a story that was about them or their neighbors.”

He went on to say that he expects his company will acquire more newspapers. And his words warmed my heart.

Much as I love finding a paper in my driveway every morning, I never was interested in chasing a job at a metro. And so I join a number of newspaper friends in a chorus of “amens” to Mr. Buffett, and look forward to creating print products for this community for a long, long time.