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Fun Facts

One of the ways The Buffalo News achieved one of the highest profit margins of any newspaper in the country was by avoiding basic investments like the one represented by the purchase of modern presses. How did they avoid it? Easy, the News enjoyed a monopoly. Also, the company received over thirty-three million dollars in subsidies from the Empire State Development Corp. for the expansion. Why was The News handed this gift? Because the editorial staff at The News has taken advantage of its monopoly by brokering political power. Think of it as a little thank you note from Gov. George Pataki.

The monopoly newspaper is the property of Berkshire Hathaway, which in turn is controlled by the second richest human on the planet, Warren Buffett. Since Berkshire acquired a 25% interest in local banking megalith, M&T bank, the editorial staff appears to have favored the Republican politics of M&T Bank President “Control Board Bob” Wilmers.

Mr. Wilmers’ road map for the community appears to be taking us off the edge of a precipice as the City of Buffalo has been forced into abject penury, with the Buffalo Board of Education clinging to the rear bumper. Soon to follow, if things go according to schedule, will be the unions of the teachers, firemen and police.

Who’s On Top?- Journalism and The Missionary Position

Somehow, all of these fun facts seemed to escape Professor Coppola’s attention. From the vantage point of his secure ivory tower in Olean, The Buffalo News must be above and beyond critical scrutiny, so much so that it deserves an infomercial. In journalism textbooks the firewalls between journalists and powerful financial entities are secure. In the real world there’s this thing called public relations that obliterates such abstract distinctions.

Coppola asked Buffett what, in his opinion, makes a good newspaper. Buffett said, in summary, “It really depends on who’s on top and what their goals are.”

The goals of the people on top at The Buffalo News obviously harmonize with the goals of the people on top of our political caste system. The same politicains representing the same powerful interests run virtually unopposed year after year with glowing endorsements from The News, year. This political caste system has proven to be a failure and yet we're celebrating the “success” of The Buffalo News.

In his interview with Margaret Sullivan, the Managing Editor of The News, Coppola made Today show host Katie Couric look like a pit bull. “Everyday we have something we call a focus story and that is our effort to provide something you can't get anywhere else in any other medium. You're not going to get it on the internet. You probably won't get it on local TV or in Business First or Artvoice or in any of the other publications that are out there.”

Rather than question this attack on competitors for advertising dollars, Coppola served up a marshmellow question about the wondrous “enterprise reporting” stressed by The News, suggesting that The News is the only outlet for investigative reporting in Western New York.

If promoting people like Masiello, Giambra, George Pataki, Victor Rice, the Rigases, and “Control Board Bob” Wilmers qualifies as “enterprise reporting”, then perhaps The News does have an edge over the competition.

If defending corrupt, anti-democratic institutions like: the Empire State Development Corporation, the State Dormitory Authority, the Buffalo Sewer Authority, the New York State Power Authority under Louis Ciminelli, the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp., the public benefit corporations at Roswell Park and now ECMC, and of course our latest dead weight, the Fiscal Stability Authority and the Joint School Construction Authority is “enterprise reporting” then we're happy to cede that territory to The News , as well.

News You Can Use Or Getting Used?

It’s all about news you can use. Sometimes it’s about getting used by The News. You would think that an institution as powerful as The News would be able to afford the cost of its own infomercial. Surprisingly, at the end of this PBS program we were shocked to learn that this nice little propaganda piece was paid for by “viewers like you.”

If that’s true, then there must be a lot other people who think that with his six figure salary, it’s about time that WNED Chairman Don Boswell stopped using precious local programming dollars to support a monopoly business enterprise with a vicious anti-labor, anti-democratic agenda. By John McMahon

The Buffalo News is celebrating its switch to new offset web press equipment which is being completed this month. Chairman Warren Buffett actually visited Buffalo as part of a series of self-congratulatory exercises in public relations. A special sunday insert in the paper detailed the transition. Former managing editor Murray Light released a book that is part memoir, part history of the newspaper. And then WNED-TV the PBS affiliate released a special program about The Buffalo News hosted by St. Bonaventure’s Dean of Journalism Lee Coppola.

Surprisingly, Alt was not invited to participate in any of the festivities. So at the risk of seeming like sour grapes, we’d like to make a few points. First, the switch to modern presses is significant because The News is the last major daily in the U.S. to make such a switch. It also appears that the Pressman’s Union that labored on the outdated presses (collectively referred to as Warren’s Museum) will get a lot less than they deserve from the “Wizard of Omaha.”

Normally coming in last place is not something to be celebrated, unless this august position is made possible at the expense of the community interest and the good taxpayers of New York State. Then it’s party time.