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Almanac makes debut; big-time newspapers get new, strong ownership

by Peter Weinberger

It’s Almanac time again and the COURIER staff can now give a collective “Phew” after months of planning, researching, writing, shooting (in my case climbing), designing and all the production work that went into the 2013-14 edition.

There’s another aspect that makes the publisher of this paper quite happy on a number of levels. When you combine today’s regular Friday paper and the Almanac, we are delivering 116 pages of Claremont-focused news and advertising to our readers. And you will see a much larger presence of realtors than in previous years.

Our staff takes a lot of pride in delivering a quality product, which is key to publishing a successful community newspaper and website. Obviously the naysayers who predict doom and gloom for the newspaper industry’s future, have never visited Claremont.

Which is the perfect transition to my next topic about newspaper owners. Yes, there continues to be concerning news as established brands like the Oregonian and Cleveland Plain Dealer go through some dramatic cost-cutting. But as the industry continues to evolve, the transition brings good news, too.

In the past 2 weeks, both The Boston Globe and The Washington Post have been purchased by billionaires motivated to ensure these newspapers continue to report stories of national interest, have a watchdog-type focus and retain the ethics and values that help the common good. It takes resources to do this, resources you won’t find from online-only news websites, blogs and even many newspapers and television stations that have reduced coverage in recent years.

There was a time not too long ago when newspaper companies were selling for obscene amounts of money (10 to 30 times their annual revenue). They say timing is everything and these new buyers purchased the Post and Globe for a song. Well, a song by billionaire standards. Even though there were plenty of suitors, The Boston Globe was sold for $70 million, a little less than the $1.1 billion the New York Times paid for it in 1993. That’s over $1.75 billion in today’s dollars.

At that price, I’m sure the new owner John Henry, the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, was able to simply write a personal check. Mr. Henry says the Globe’s “award-winning journalism” and “its rich history and tradition of excellence” will continue as he takes his first foray into the world of news media.

It’s obvious Mr. Henry clearly understands the role and values of accurate, in-depth reporting, and will focus on the interests of readers, not his own personal agenda. By adopting a long-term strategy in good times and bad, the Globe will be a successful business, too.

The same is true for The Washington Post and their new owner Jeff Bezos. Mr. Bezos owns this other side business called Amazon, and was able to purchase the Post for $250 million cash. That amount was not even one percent of his net worth. Talk about deep pockets!

The Post has been a family-owned newspaper company for decades, and it’s natural to worry about change. But Mr. Bezos understands what kind of business the Post is, and made that clear in a letter to employees.

“The values of the Post do not need changing. The paper’s duty will remain to its readers and not to the private interests of its owners. We will continue to follow the truth wherever it leads, and we’ll work hard not to make mistakes. When we do, we will own up to them quickly and completely.

“I won’t be leading The Washington Post day-to-day. I am happily living in ‘the other Washington’ where I have a day job that I love. Besides that, the Post already has an excellent leadership team that knows much more about the news business than I do, and I’m extremely grateful to them for agreeing to stay on.”

Mr. Bezos went on to talk about great journalism, which is an area some publishers ignore, or know little about (proven success in advertising is a must for any new publisher.)

In fact, I was so impressed with how Mr. Bezos handled the purchase, I will accept his check for $10 million as long as I can remain COURIER publisher.

Now that’s a deal.

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