BUFFETT HAS LEE INVESTORS NERVOUS
When Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway started investing in the newspaper business, it seemed like good news for smaller publishing outlets such as Lee Enterprises, which owns and operates the Arizona Daily Star.
After Berkshire Hathaway invested in Lee stock months ago, the stock rebounded from about $1.10 a share to the $1.70 range, and hovered consistently around $1.50 a share.
But the rebound contracted a bit last week: Lee stock plummeted to the $1.20 range over the course of a couple of days, due to a combination of sour quarterly financial numbers and Berkshire Hathaway's decision to shut down a community newspaper in Virginia.
The (Manassas) News & Messenger and a companion weekly publication will shut down at the end of the year, costing 33 employees their jobs.
There's a difference between the Berkshire Hathaway relationship with the closing paper and its stock position with Lee: Berkshire Hathaway purchased the Media General chain, of which the News & Messenger had been a part, and funneled the organization into its World Media Enterprise. But the company's decision to shut down the Virginia community paper led to discomfort regarding Lee stock, of which Buffett owns a significant percentage.
Lee also released its fourth-quarter financials Nov. 12. In the odd world of newspaper economics, the amount of money the company lost was, um, good news. Sort of: Lee posted a quarterly loss of $7.7 million, which was an improvement over the $8.8 million it lost in the same quarter a year earlier.
Revenue actually increased a bit, but the boost was slight, and a portion of the uptick had to do with an extra week in the quarter. However, increasing interest rates as part of Lee's bankruptcy refinancing cut into the small bump.
Locally, the Star irked some in its dwindling print-subscriber base with the announcement that it would charge an extra $2 for the Thanksgiving edition. Well, $2 minus the 36 cents, on average, it generally charges for Thursday delivery.
"Your statement includes delivery of the Thanksgiving Day edition, which is charged at the regular Sunday rate," said a bill from the Star attempting to explain the increase. "The rate reflects the complexity of delivering the oversized paper, allowing your carrier to be compensated accordingly."
Is the carrier "compensated accordingly," as in a lot less, for that 2-ounce Monday edition?
On another note: We're near the end of the year, and Lee had set a goal to have pay walls operational for its publication websites by the end of 2012. At last look, the unusable-even-when-it's-free azstarnet.com website was still accessible to the masses, if the masses had any interest in attempting to navigate the morass.
JOHN C. SCOTT ADDS SECOND HOUR
Starting next week, The John C. Scott Show is slated to double its air time on KVOI AM 1030.
Scott, who has broadcast on a number of stations in the market over a 24-year period, is adding the 3 p.m. hour to his slate. "Tucson's most talked to, talked about, listened to talk show" will air weekday afternoons from 3 to 5 p.m.
"We think the audience will grow. We can include more local talk, more interviews. We think the numbers will be better, and we think we can do a better job," Scott said. "We're planning on going back to Washington, (and) to Israel the first of April. So if you're going to go halfway around the world, you'd want two hours a day to do things. We will be able to do things we did before, and hopefully do them better."
KFMA NAMES PROGRAM DIRECTOR
It's not a stretch to think a guy who goes by the moniker "The Ego" might be in a position to run something. And that's just what's happening at alternative/new-rock radio station KFMA FM 92.1/101.3.
The Ego (whose real name is Chris Firmage, but what fun is that?) has been named the station's program director.
The Ego, a UA journalism grad, has worked at KFMA for 11 years in a variety of positions, from night host (a completely foreign concept to most Tucson radio operations these days) to creative director to music director and assistant PD.
TUBAC STATE PARK NAMED A HISTORIC JOURNALISM SITE
The site of Arizona's first newspaper got the attention of the Society of Professional Journalists, which has pegged the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park as a national historic site for journalism.
The site is the home of The Weekly Arizonian. Edward E. Cross began the publishing venture March 3, 1859, five years after Americans arrived to settle around the town, which was founded by Spanish soldiers more than a century before.
The newspaper's endeavor in Tubac was short-lived. The paper's final edition was published on Aug. 9 of the same year.
"Conducting a newspaper in a frontier country is always a perilous, precarious and thankless task," Cross wrote in the paper's farewell editorial.
The Washington hand press that Cross used to print the newspaper is still at the site. Volunteers crank out copies of The Weekly Arizonian for interested visitors. A plaque will designate the location as a National Historic Site in Journalism.
The Society of Professional Journalists has honored people and places that have impacted the field since 1942. Noteworthy honorees include The Associated Press offices in Washington, D.C., and New York City; Freedom's Journal, which was the first black-owned newspaper published in the U.S.; and the Tombstone Epitaph, which earned placement on the list in 1996.