We announced this week that The Press is being sold to BH Media, part of tycoon Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. This sale is good news for The Press, its readers, advertisers and employees, and for the southern New Jersey communities served by The Press.
BH Media is a new company. Its 30 daily newspapers were acquired in the last couple of years. Starting and building BH Media at a time when other owners are leaving the newspaper business, and when many industry observers are questioning the future of the medium, may appear to be a risky venture. But Buffett has confidence in newspapers, like The Press, that provide good local news coverage in healthy markets.
Here is some of what he said about his newspaper investments in his 2013 letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders: "Newspapers continue to reign supreme … in the delivery of local news. 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. …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."
BH Media has quickly earned a reputation as an excellent publisher, employer, business partner and community citizen, and you can expect our new owners to be all of those things here. And it says something great about The Press and this southern New Jersey region that the most successful investor of all time just made a big bet on our future.
We need to acknowledge a debt of gratitude to the Bitzer/Taylor family, who have owned The Press for 62 years. Their thoughtful stewardship of this newspaper is the reason that The Press today remains a strong and independent voice in this region. The people of The Press remember them as kind and generous bosses. I know them to be smart and highly ethical leaders whose principles and business practices should be a model for all business owners.
Another big change for The Press occurred earlier this month when we shut down our production operation and transferred the printing of the newspaper up the Garden State Parkway to the Asbury Park Press. This move reflects an accelerating trend in our industry, where the economics strongly favor consolidating production into fewer, more efficient sites.
We have succeeded in making this change invisible to our readers and advertisers, with a couple of exceptions. First, our color pictures are now sharper and more vivid thanks to the newer and better printing technology in Asbury Park. And to accommodate travel time from our printer back to Pleasantville, we now have earlier deadlines. Because we go to press earlier, some news, notably sports scores, is left out of the print edition.
Deadlines have always been a fact of life in our business. No matter when we started the presses, some news happened too late to include in the paper. For example, we could never get the scores of West Coast night ball games into the paper. But because we have a website that we update continuously, we can make news available to our readers whenever it happens. That is particularly true with sports scores, which feed automatically from our wire service directly onto our website. We update the website as soon as the Associated Press moves the scores. We quickly post other breaking news, too. For example, the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial was announced after our press deadline last weekend, but the website was all over the story the minute we got it. The combination of the print and digital products enables us to give readers more up-to-the-minute news than we ever could with print alone.
Finally, I want to thank The Press' production people, who worked faithfully to serve our readers until the last copy of the final edition left our plant. They richly earned our gratitude and best wishes.
Jim Hopson is publisher of The Press.