Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is buying Media General’s newspapers, which means that the Daily Progress is changing hands. It was 1995 when Media General Bought the now-120-year-old newspaper from Worrell Enterprises, a local, family-owned business, and by most measures, the newspaper has not fared well since. The entire print journalism industry has been in a slump since advertising dollars began moving online a decade ago. It’s not clear what the future financial model will be for local journalism, and the whole industry seems to be waiting for somebody to swoop in and figure it out. Berkshire Hathaway—technically, BH Media Group—is buying 63 newspapers for $142M.
Buffett already owns a few newspapers, including the Buffalo News and the recently purchased Omaha World-Herald, and owns the largest share of the Washington Post. Buffett has said that he sees newspapers’ value as a community hub, and that their most valuable function is providing information that isn’t available elsewhere, something that many newspapers—including the Progress—have been struggling with. He’s also said that it’s a mistake for newspapers to give away so much material online for free.
What all of this will mean for the Progress remains to be seen, but it’s a fair guess that this is good news. Media General has basically been supervising a slow collapse of their print properties, with no apparent ability to arrest or reverse that collapse. Buffett is perhaps the deepest of deep-pocketed investments out there, known for shrewd, long-term, community-focused thinking. The future of the Progress is looking a lot brighter.