BH Media Group

BH Media Group of Omaha said Monday it has eliminated 289 jobs, including 108 vacant positions, to reduce costs because of declining advertising and circulation revenue.

BH Media is the newspaper division of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., parent company of the Omaha World-Herald and other publications. It now employs 4,450 people.

Terry Kroeger, president and chief executive, said in a memo to BH Media employees that some of the company’s 31 newspapers are reducing other expenses, including the number of pages they print.

None of the job cuts were at The World-Herald or the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil, although a few Omaha-based BH Media positions were eliminated.

Kroeger said in an interview that he told Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett last week about the cutbacks but said “the decisions were made completely locally. ... His opinion was not sought or offered.”

Kroeger said BH Media still considers buying newspapers that come up for sale, as it has in recent years under Berkshire ownership. Berkshire formed BH Media when it purchased a group of newspapers in 2012, shortly after acquiring The World-Herald.

In the memo, Kroeger said that without cost reductions, some BH Media operations would not be profitable.

“And, like it or not, profitable news organizations are necessary to practice exceptional journalism,” he said, adding:

“While these actions are sad for all of us as colleagues, they are necessary to sustain the vital role our publications play in their respective communities.”

Kroeger said the company is experiencing a “critical moment” as print newspapers have “suffered from the growing popularity of the digital environment.” Regional and national advertisers are being hurt by online retailers, he said, causing them to reduce their print advertising.

Kroeger said BH Media newspapers are the leaders in their markets and are investing in digital publishing “to create as many connections as possible with our readers, non-readers, advertisers, non-advertisers and all consumers.”

Newspapers owned by BH Media include the Richmond Times-Dispatch and Roanoke Times in Virginia; the Tulsa World in Oklahoma; the Greensboro News & Record and the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina; and Nebraska newspapers in York, North Platte, Kearney, Scottsbluff and Grand Island.

The Richmond paper said it laid off 33 employees, including 13 in the newsroom, and is leaving other positions unfilled. Other changes in the paper will be announced later this week.

The Greensboro paper said it cut 36 staff positions and would consolidate its paper into two sections on Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays; merge its Sunday news into one section; and drop the daily TV list, bridge column and horoscope.

And the Tulsa World said it eliminated 28 staff positions in news, advertising, finance, circulation and corporate services.

Figures on BH Media in Berkshire’s 2016 annual report show that the 31 daily papers’ weekday circulation was down 6.9 percent from a year earlier to a combined 674,000 copies.

The World-Herald is the largest in the group, with a weekday circulation of 99,100 and a Sunday circulation of 124,000, according to the 2016 report. That’s down 6.1 percent on weekdays and 7.3 percent on Sundays from figures in Berkshire’s 2015 report.

steve.jordon@owh.com, 402-444-1080

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