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Buffett ‘Puzzled’ Over New Orleans Paper’s Cutbacks

Buffett ‘Puzzled’ Over New Orleans Paper’s Publication Cutback
Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., throws a newspaper during an event at the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska on May 5, 2012 Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is expanding in media with the purchase of 63 newspapers, said he’s surprised the Times-Picayune of New Orleans will cut its publication schedule to three days a week.

“It seems to me that three days a week is simply unsustainable over the long term,” Buffett wrote in a letter to musician Evan Christopher that was posted today on the NolaVie website. “I’m puzzled as to why the economics don’t work on a seven-day basis.”

Buffett, Berkshire’s chief executive officer, has said that newspapers focused on local communities can be profitable, while the model of offering free news online is unsustainable. The Times-Picayune said last week it would publish three days a week beginning in the fall and cut staff to focus on digital news.

Buffett’s letter was in response to Christopher’s request that the billionaire meet with residents who want the newspaper, owned by the Newhouse family’s Advance Publications Inc., to continue daily printing.

“I have no insight as to whether the Newhouse family would sell the Times-Pic to a local group,” Buffett wrote in the letter, which was confirmed by Carrie Kizer, his assistant. “They do not have a history of selling anything. That’s something a member of the community should explore. Let me know if you learn more.”

A telephone call to New York-based Advance Publications seeking comment wasn’t immediately returned.

Berkshire agreed May 17 to buy 63 daily and weekly newspapers from Media General Inc., including the Richmond Times-Dispatch of Virginia, for $142 million. Berkshire is the largest shareholder of the Washington Post Co. and last year purchased the Omaha World-Herald in Buffett’s Nebraska hometown.

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