Thursday, May 17, 2012

An earthquake in Richmond: The Times Dispatch sold to Berkshire Hathaway

Breaking news in Richmond this morning; Media General has sold almost all of its newspapers to Warren Buffett's Bershire Hathaway Inc!
Media General Inc. today announced that it is selling 63 newspapers, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. for $142 million.

A Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, BH Media Group, will purchase all of the newspapers owned by Media General, with the exception of the Tampa Tribune and its publications. Media General said it is in discussions with other prospective buyers for its Tampa print assets.
It's hard to overstate the potential impact of this transaction on Virginia politics. The Richmond Times Dispatch has historically been so deeply in the tank for the Republican Party of Virginia that the RTD was considered to be an informal branch of the RPV. Virginia Republicans might find it a little more difficult to maintain their power without a near monopoly on the mainstream press in Central Virginia, and the Richmond Times Dispatch isn't the only Virginia newspaper owned by Media General that will soon become the property of Berkshire Hathaway. Here's the list of newspapers in Virginia that will likely be transferred as part of the deal:
Amherst New Era-Progress
Powhatan Today
Midlothian Exchange
Mechanicsville Local
Goochland Gazette
Bristol Herald Courier
Culpeper Star-Exponent
The (Charlottesville) Daily Progress
Danville Register & Bee
Manassas Journal Messenger
Nelson County Times
The (Lynchburg) News & Advance
The (Waynesboro) News Virginian
News and Messenger (Manassas)
Richlands News-Press/Clinch Valley News
Smyth News and Messenger
The Wytheville Enterprise
Washington County News (Abingdon)
Is it possible that the more centrist Warren Buffett could shake up the Richmond Times Dispatch's editorial policy and force it to tell the straight truth without bending everything to the right wing on its opinion page? How would Virginia's political atmosphere change if the clouds of disinformation from the RTD suddenly be replaced with a little sunshine?

The RTD has one giant asset in the person of Jeff Schapiro, a writer who single-handedly allows the RTD to claim some credibility through his skilled and fair political reporting. If Buffett can clear out the bias at the editorial level and bring in more talent of the caliber of Schapiro, then Richmonders and Central Virginians might finally get the political reporting they need to make informed choices at the ballot box.

Let's hope so.

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