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O'Dwyer's Newsletter - May 21, 2012 - Vol. 45 - No. 21 (download PDF version)

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MEDIA NEWS ____________________


Berkshire Hathaway has agreed to pay $142M in cash for 63 newspapers owned by Media General, the Richmond, Va.-based media company, although MG’s Tampa Tribune is not part of the deal.

Richmond Times Dispatch

Berkshire’s BH Media Group will also provide a $400M loan and $45M credit line for the media company to pay bank debt, in exchange for share warrants and a director slot.

“In towns and cities where there is a strong sense of community, there is no more important institution than the local paper,” said Warren Buffett, chairman of BH. “The many locales served by the newspapers we are acquiring fall firmly in this mold and we are delighted they have found a permanent home with Berkshire Hathaway.”

BH takes control of 63 daily and weekly papers in Virgina, North Carolina, South Carolina and Alabama, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Winston-Salem Journal, as well as their websites, digital versions and commercial printing business.

Media General said it expects to enter into a deal with one of several prospective buyers for its Tampa print properties, mainly the Trib.

“These newspapers are great institutions and powerful brands in their respective markets,” said Terry Kroeger, president of BH Media Group, which owns the Omaha World-Herald Company.

MG CEO Marshall Morton said the company will be focusing on its TV business and growth in digital and mobile. It owns several network affiliates, including eight NBC, eight CBS and one each of ABC and CW.

The BH deal is slated to close on June 25.


The Ford Foundation has given the Los Angeles Times a $1M, two-year grant to expand news coverage of topics like immigrant communities in Southern California, the state’s prison system, the U.S. border region and Brazil.

The Times is hiring five new reporters to cover those beats, which were previously assigned to staffers with other responsibilities, said editor Davan Maharaj. It had used stringers to cover Brazil, an emerging economic powerhouse.

“These are vital coverage areas that have been affected by our need to make tough choices in the past decade,” Maharaj said in an email to staff. “Although the grant is for two years, we intend to continue with these beats beyond that period. We will immediately start our search for reporters.”

The Ford Foundation told the paper it would consider extending the grant after two years.

A spokesman said the foundation “and many other funders are experimenting with new approaches to preserve and advance high-quality journalism.”

Shutters Sunday Magazine

The Los Angeles Times Media Group is pulling the plug on its Sunday magazine, LA, Los Angeles Times Magazine, as president and COO Kathy Thomson cited “a very challenging environment.”

L.A. Times Magazine
The last issue is set for June 3.

The magazine, which switched from weekly to monthly publication in 2008, will print a final issue on June 3.

“The entire magazine industry has been faced with a very challenging environment," Thomson wrote in a memo which ran in the Times. “We are not immune to the challenges.”

Thomson said the Times is developing a quarterly centered on fashion, style and luxury. Those are key markets supporting Sunday magazines at the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.


Paul Steiger, 69, is stepping down Jan. 1 as editorin-chief and CEO of ProPublica, the non-profit investigative reporting outfit.

He earned total compensation of $590,119 in 2010, according to the group’s tax filing.

ProPublica managing editor Stephen Engelberg will take the e-i-c title and general manager Richard Tofel will step into the president position. The pair will share the chief executive title. Engelberg earned $376,276 and Tofel made $347,666 in 2010.

The 54-year-old Engelberg worked 18 years at the New York Times and was managing editor of The Oregonian before joining ProPublica. Tofel, 55, is a former assistant publisher at the Wall Street Journal.

Steiger, who was managing editor of the WSJ, will transition to the executive chairman post at ProPublica, concentrating on fundraising and strategy.

ProPublica recorded $10,224,662 in 2010 total revenue. That was up from $6,367,046 from the earlier year.

It began 2010 with $1,763,323 in net assets and wrapped up the year at the $2,847,703 mark.


The New York Times Co. has sold its last remaining stake in Fenway Sports Group, owner of the Boston Red Sox, to multiple buyers, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

The company received $63M from multiple buyers and will record a $38M second-quarter gain.

FSG properties also include Liverpool Football Club, which plays in England’s Premier League; 80 percent stake in New England Sports Network regional cable network, and Roush Fenway Racing Nascar team.


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