By: Nu Yang
Question: With billionaires like Warren Buffett, John Henry and Jeff Bezos buying newspapers, do you feel they will save print journalism by transforming the newspaper’s brand, or do you feel they may negatively influence the future of journalism (ex. political interest, no strong journalism background)?
Adrian Rodriquez, 27, senior, San Francisco State University
Rodriguez is the editor-in-chief of San Francisco State University’s student newspaper, The Golden Gate Xpress. He has worked on the Xpress as A&E editor and online managing editor in previous semesters. He was also a staff writer for the hyper-local news blog, Local Addition, in San Francisco.
The conversation to be had isn’t whether businessmen will save or destroy print journalism, but rather, will journalists allow themselves to be negatively affected or influenced by this? News organizations need to be transparent and journalists have the responsibility to report the truth. There needs to be a separation between the business and the editorial process. And, whether newspapers are owned by billionaires or not, the current state of print media is an unhealthy one.
In an article commenting on Jeff Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post by Business Insider, the author mentions, “The newspaper itself is part of an industry that’s in free fall.” Print newspaper is no longer self-sustainable.
The tradition of the print industry is for a newsgroup to be locally owned and operated. The evolution of the industry has shifted the consumer demand toward the Internet, resulting in a loss of revenue that newspapers once generated; which in turn, created an influx of bloggers and journalists who produce online content for free.
From a business perspective, it makes sense to sell; and it’s logical to sell to someone with a history of successes.
Although it may seem like a trend for billionaires to purchase major news organizations—like it’s just another thing for them to own—it’s unfair to attribute the demise or success of newspapers solely to this fact.
Change is inevitable; it is how journalists adapt to the change that will determine the future of journalism. Ultimately, it is up to journalists to uphold a publication’s integrity. And in the case of a billionaire owner of a newspaper who propagates a personal agenda through a media outlet, it is the journalists that will be held accountable.
Kelly Ann Scott, 36, executive editor, Reno (Nev.) Journal-Gazette
Scott became the executive editor of the Reno Gazette-Journal in June. She has worked at the newspaper since 2005 in various editing roles including senior editor, breaking news editor, project editor and assistant city editor. She previously worked as a reporter for the St. Cloud (Minn.) Times. She has also been an adjunct instructor at University of Nevada, Reno and is a board member of the Nevada Press Association.
I favor transformation.
The industry has long held its rules to keep influence and agenda in check. I believe and trust this will continue at the newspapers recently acquired by Buffett, Henry and Bezos. Most of what I’ve gathered indicates the three are respectful of holding the line.
I’m also hopeful about the recent purchases. Fresh eyes on our business could drive industry innovation and push us toward a more sustainable revenue approach, keeping afloat the journalism that many of us love—and trust. I have high expectations for their leadership and direction on that front.
Buffett, Henry and Bezos are highly regarded for their business acumen. The fact they’ve chosen to invest in newspapers tells me they believe the brand continues to be worth the investment. The brands behind the newspapers are linked with a solid and enduring tradition of journalism across all platforms.
The three recognize the value of quality journalism, and because of that, I’d expect them to invest and support the journalism associated with their brands. That sort of support should allow the top-notch journalists at those organizations to push what we do to even higher levels of quality and impact.
Journalism is the brand that these newspapers represent. Negatively influencing journalism would harm that brand and, in turn, diminish the value of their investments. It’s in their best business interests to continue to produce good journalism.