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Warren Buffett and the future of journalism

I'll admit to initially being a bit put off by the title of the speakers panel I'm participating in Thursday: 

"Journalism on the brink: When the daily paper becomes the daily blog, who wins and who loses?"

The again, it's kind of subtle compared to what Warren Buffett had to say this morning on CNBC:

"Newspapers have a terrible future."

Far be it for me to argue with the boss.

Buffett. whose Berkshire Hathaway owns The Buffalo News and a piece of the Washington Post, went on to note the steep decline in newspaper circulation reported last week.

"The truth is fewer people ... are going to be reading newspapers a year from now and two years from now," he said.

It's not the first time Buffett has let his feelings be known. Six months ago, he told the Wall Street Journal he would not buy a newspaper company "at any price. They have the possibility of going to just unending losses.”

I guess now would not be a good time to insert a YouTube video of Timbuk 3 singing "The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades."

Instead, let me plug the speakers panel at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Burchfield Penney Art Center. It's sponsored by Buffalo Spree, whose current issue includes a story on the state of local online media.

The panel includes a cast of thousands beyond yours truly: Geoff Kelly, of Artvoice; Newell Nussbaumer, a founder of Buffalo Rising; Marc Odien and Chris Smith of WNYMedia.net; Alan Bedenko, i.e. Buffalo Pundit, da man among local bloggers; Brian Connolly, online editor here at The News; Ben Siege of Block Blub magazine; Elena Buscarino, editor of Buffalo Rising; and blogger Sharon Bailey.

I think you should show, if for no other reason than to see who can get a word in edgewise.

In the meantime, listen to what new media guru Jeff Jarvis has to say about what the future of journalism will look like.


In a recent post, Jarvis declared:

The future of news is entrepreneurial.

There’s a lot in that statement. It says: The future of news is not institutional… The news of tomorrow has yet to be built…. The structure – the ecosystem – of news will not be dominated by a few corporations but likely will be made up of networks of many startups performing specialized functions based on the opportunities they see in the market…. Who does journalism, why and how will change…. The skills of journalists will change (to include business)…. We don’t yet know what the market will demand and support from journalism…. News will look disordered and messy…. There will be more failures than successes in the immediate future of news….

That statement also holds many implications for sectors of the economy and society: investment (put money into the new, not the old)… public policy (don’t protect and preserve the incumbents but nurture the startups by creating a fertile and level playing field)… education (how do we train journalists when everyone can do journalism? – how do we train everyone?)… marketing (advertising won’t be one-stop shopping anymore and that means it may support news less)… PR (influence will be no longer be concentrated)… technology (there are opportunities here)…

Finally, that statement does not say some things. It does not say that the incumbents’ institutions will necessarily die, only that they have proven not to be the source of innovation and growth in news.

Hey, I think I have my talking points for Thursday.

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