So I was talking with my friend Buffy the other day — that’s what I call Warren Buffett — and he said, “Mickster” — that’s what he calls me — “I’m gonna have to cut this short. I’m playing bridge with Macca” — that’s what he calls Paul McCartney — “on the Riviera in a couple of hours. But I just wanted to make sure you received my instructions for next week: More Romney, less Bondi.”
“Gotcha, Buffy,” I said.
And before anyone starts believing my tall tale, I’d better cut it short now; no, friends, it’s fake news. Buffett didn’t tell me anything, not even about BH Media selling the Journal to Lee Enterprises, which we announced Thursday.
For the record, and in truth this time, I’ve never met or spoken to Buffett, not even after his organization bought the Journal in 2012. I don’t think he ever came to Winston-Salem, did he? No one in the editorial department ever received any kind of instructions from him about our content, either. Not only would his input have been unwelcome, but he has bigger fish to fry than telling small-town newspapers what to print.
I mention that only because last week, after the latest sale was announced, I did receive questions about what influence the new ownership might have on our editorial content.
I laugh every time President Trump tweets about the “Amazon Washington Post,” referring to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ ownership of the newspaper in an attempt to bring the Post’s independence into question and smear both.
You’d think such a savvy man of the world would know better — and he probably does — but I suspect Bezos is too busy packing all those cardboard boxes to worry about what the Post prints.
Plus, according to Business Insider reporter Eugene Kim, “Bezos isn’t involved in setting The Post’s editorial direction at all.”
I feel safe saying that the opinion pages in most newspapers run independent of corporate or commercial influence. They kind of have to. It’s part of the mission.
That’s not to say that I’m doing this page all by myself. I rely on guidance from the other members of our editorial board: publisher Alton Brown and executive editorial page editor Allen Johnson. I also try to learn from local people involved in government, commerce and education, as well as readers and other members of the community.
But mostly I rely on the principles for which the Journal has stood over the years. In our own editorials, over their under “Our view,” the Journal has traditionally supported the local business community; a clean, healthy environment balanced with economic opportunities; educational opportunities for all of our children; affordable housing; social justice, I write with not an ounce of irony; responsible fiscal stewardship from government; and our unique arts environment, which, along with imaginative city planning, make this an exciting and enriching place in which to live. We try to walk a middle road between extremes. I don’t expect any of that to change.
Whatever the implications and expectations of the sale, I feel optimistic. Lee, which only owns newspapers, has a good reputation.
There will likely be other changes down the road, some unpleasant. But that’s always the case with journalism these days.
On the day the sale was announced, I was in the midst of a couple of email conversations with local readers who were unhappy with some of our content. I tried to remind them that we call these opinion pages for a reason: the editorials, letters, cartoons and columns we print don’t “stick to the facts” and they’re not supposed to.
We do want everyone involved to start with the facts, and certainly to not deny the facts. But everything here represents someone’s idea of what those facts mean. That involves insight, evaluation, extrapolation, interpretation — opinion.
My name is on every editorial page — a responsibility that I take seriously. Sometimes I fear people misunderstand what that means, though. It doesn’t mean that I agree with everything we print.
But it does mean that everything we print is something that I decided is worth reading, if only to understand someone else’s point of view.
I wouldn’t claim that my judgment has always been perfect. That’s why we say that we do a new one every day.
I’m coming up on my two-year anniversary as the editorial page editor. The other day a reader asked if I knew John Railey and Linda Brinson. I did, I worked for them, as well as Carl Crothers, who was the editorial page editor between them. I learned from them all and though they might have wished for a better student, I could not have had better teachers.
Except perhaps for you, the readers. Thanks for being here. Thanks for your encouraging words. Thanks for getting mad at me. Thanks for caring about our home. I hope we keep the conversation going for many more years.
Someone has to fill Buffy’s absence.