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New paper. What does the future hold for The Roanoke Times?

The Roanoke Times is still my newspaper but now I have to share it with Warren Buffett…and I’m ok with that. 

With the recent purchase of The Roanoke Times, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway acquired their 30th daily newspaper, mostly in small and medium sized markets.  It is a purchase that makes me anxious.  I spent three formative years of my career at The Roanoke Times and I still love the paper.  I believe a strong newspaper is the backbone of a well-informed community.  A strong local paper is, in my opinion, a quality of life issue.  Fortunately, it seems Mr. Buffett agrees. 
“Newspapers continue to reign supreme in the delivery of local news,” Buffett said in a recent interview.  “If you want to know what’s going on in your town – whether the news is about the mayor or taxes or high school football – there is no substitute for a local newspaper that is doing its job.  A reader’s eyes may glaze over after they take in a couple of paragraphs about Canadian tariffs or political developments in Pakistan; a story about the reader himself or his neighbors will be read to the end.  Wherever there is a pervasive sense of community, a paper that serves the special informational needs of that community will remain indispensable to a significant portion of its residents.”
You have heard people talk at length about what’s wrong with newspapers.  I would like to take a couple of paragraphs to talk about what, in my experience, is right with newspapers.  What is right is principled people like Frosty Landon, Rich Martin, and Brian Kelley who take the time to be certain that a story is reported correctly, not just quickly.  People like Megan Schnabel, Beth Macy, and Kevin Kittredge who fused the talents of reporter and storyteller so superbly the reader became truly invested in the story.  Folks like Ralph Berrier, Ed Shamy, and Dan Casey who have acted as keepers of the flame of the passionate Southern journalist.  And most of all, people who I worked with like Steve Stinson, John Levin, Keith White, and Mary Bishop are what’s right with newspapers in that they are talented, passionate and principled.  These are just a few of the people who comprise the many things that are right with newspapers.
Some of these folks still work in newspaper, others have moved on.  But I am reminded of a promotional slogan that Jean Holtzinger, a former copywriter at the paper, penned:  Great people make a great newspaper.  The Roanoke Times has always had great people, has great people working there today, and, if the past is any indicator, will continue to have great people working there in the future.  And I’ll keep reading. 
Warren Buffett has it right….the newspaper is an intimate part of a community.  There’s nothing wrong with the newspaper industry that cannot be fixed by what is right in the newspaper industry. 
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