When Warren Buffett’s BH Media bought the Greensboro News & Record in 2013, his promise was to reinvest in local news.
That is not how it worked out.
By 2018, BH Media had begun unloading the N&R, and also the Winston-Salem Journal, to Lee Enterprises, a sale that was completed in 2020. But before they did, BH Media unleashed a couple rounds of layoffs that decimated the newsroom and untethered the newspaper from its downtown building, its most valuable asset.
And then the building sat for years, unable to find a buyer — though there were a few close calls.
It’s a fantastic lot: 6.5 contiguous acres in the middle of downtown Greensboro. But most of it is brownfield, contaminated by decades of newspaper ink and runoff from the auto garage and gas pump the paper used to service its fleet of vehicles.
And then there’s the problem of the building itself. Architecturally it’s a disaster, more suited to a suburban office park than a burgeoning downtown district. In terms of downtown development, the N&R building can be blamed for confining downtown Greensboro to the thin strip of Elm Street, precluding any development for most of the east side of the district.
And since the newspaper staff moved out, the abandoned property has become a genuine eyesore, attracting rodents and windblown trash. Homeless folks, who quickly gained access to the interior, sheltered there for years. One of them, Tiffany Holmes-Williams, was murdered there by gunshot in August 2023, in the outbuilding that once housed the offices of Triad Style.
Now, after years of false starts, the city has finally decided to condemn the property on March 1; they will put out an RFP for its demolition, which won’t be cheap because of the brownfield. BH Media, which still owns the property, has said they will pick up the tab, which could run between $700,000-$1 million.
Greensboro Councilman Zack Matheny, also president of Downtown Greensboro Inc., told Fox 8 News that a rep from BH Media indicated that they did not realize how bad things had gotten on that section of Market Street. Which should come as no surprise — after gutting our daily newspaper, BH Media never looked back.
All of this is to say thanks a lot, Warren Buffett, for eviscerating the most important source of local news in Greensboro, then saddling the city’s most important district with a toxic and dangerous derelict, locking up more than six acres of prime real estate for more than five years.
Maybe in another five years we’ll have something fine in that space — apartments, retail, community space. But for now it’s just a reminder of how an oracle in Omaha can screw things up in a city halfway across the country without even really thinking about it.
Join the First Amendment Society, a membership that goes directly to funding TCB‘s newsroom.
We believe that reporting can save the world.
The TCB First Amendment Society recognizes the vital role of a free, unfettered press with a bundling of local experiences designed to build community, and unique engagements with our newsroom that will help you understand, and shape, local journalism’s critical role in uplifting the people in our cities.
All revenue goes directly into the newsroom as reporters’ salaries and freelance commissions.