For the past three months, I have been on an amazing tour of greater Buffalo.
Buffalo News reporters have taken me to the Central Terminal, Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna and the renovated Hotel @ the Lafayette. I toured the old Courier-Express building, now the home of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. I visited City Hall and the county building, sat through a court hearing and toured the city with Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda. I had lunch at GiGi’s, saw the Chestnut Ridge Park sledding hill and even had a backstage tour of Shea’s Performing Arts Center. The view from the stage is spectacular.
I have been to the East Side, South Buffalo, North Buffalo, the West Side, Lackawanna, Hamburg, Orchard Park, Evans, West Seneca, Cheektowaga, Lancaster, Amherst, Tonawanda, Kenmore and points beyond and in between.
It is great fun being the new guy at The Buffalo News.
Gene Warner, a veteran News reporter, says The News should start a new line of business: reporter-led tours of Buffalo.
As a newcomer – I have been editor of The News for not quite three months – I am impressed by the activity in our community. Every day, construction workers and heavy machinery are at work outside my office window, turning the former Donovan State Office Building into a hotel and offices and transforming the Memorial Auditorium site into a tourism, shopping and office magnet.
This year, construction is expected to begin on the block across from First Niagara Center, the new University at Buffalo Medical School and the new John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital. Catholic Health System and Roswell Park Cancer Institute have new buildings on the drawing board.
Buffalo has problems, of course. The region continues to have more than its share of poverty, slow job growth and very high taxes.
News organizations like The News have had a tough few years, too. The Great Recession and the explosive growth of the Internet have squeezed every news organization that relies on advertising for a big part of its revenue.
Despite it all, The Buffalo News remains the largest news organization in New York State outside of the New York metro area – and we are intent on doing even more.
We are adding reporting positions to expand our coverage of some of the region’s biggest stories: the growing importance of health care as an economic engine in the region; increasing real estate development; the environment; and our schools. We hope to expand our reporting corps even more in the future.
My love affair with newspapers started 45 years ago as a youngster reading the comics in the Des Moines Register. As a teenager I delivered the Register – it meant I got to read the newspaper before anyone else – edited my college newspaper and worked at the Wall Street Journal, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Baltimore Sun, Congressional Quarterly and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
The News is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. Buffett is a longtime fan of newspapers – he delivered newspapers as a kid, too, though he made a lot more money at it than I did – who has bet on the future of newspapers by buying more than 60 in the past year. In a public letter shortly after the purchase, Buffett wrote:
“American papers have only failed when one or more of the following factors was present: (1) The town or city had two or more competing dailies; (2) the paper lost its position as the primary source of information important to its readers or (3) the town or city did not have a pervasive self-identity. We don’t face those problems.”
Both Buffalo and The Buffalo News have a great past – and great days ahead.