By Casey Welsch
June 28, 2018

Davenport, Iowa-based newspaper corporation Lee Enterprises will take over management of Berkshire-owned newspaper the Omaha World Herald. Berkshire and Lee are the biggest owners of newspapers in the state of Nebraska, with Berkshire owning the World Herald (the state’s largest newspaper), and Lee owning the Lincoln Journal Star, the Beatrice Daily Sun, the Columbus Telegram, the Fremont Tribune, and the Sioux City Journal.

Berkshire Hathway will continue to own the World Herald, but Lee will take over management of the newspaper, giving the corporation control of printed information for a majority of Nebraska residents.

The World Herald eliminated 43 jobs in its most recent round of layoffs in February of this year, and shortly before that the 133-year-old publication substantially reduced its newspaper’s size, both in number of pages and the size of pages. Both the World Herald and all Lee-owned Nebraska publications now physically print at the same reduced page size. The Lincoln Journal Star has been through several rounds of layoffs and buyouts in the last few years.

Eight people were removed from the newsroom in November of 2015, all but two of whom were over the age of 60, leading some to suspect age played a role in their termination. More than 30 people in the newspaper’s regional design center were laid off as the design center was eliminated in January of 2016. The Journal Star and all other Lee papers in Nebraska have been produced remotely by design centers in Munster, Indiana and Madison, Wisconsin since then. Several of the Journal Star’s longest-serving journalists were offered buyouts in January 2017, further reducing the newsroom’s size and scope. And 8 more newsroom employees were laid off in February of this year, reducing the Journal Star newsroom to just 11 full-time news reporters serving its city of more than a quarter of a million people.

All told the Journal Star has laid off or otherwise eliminated more than 50 people from its newsroom in the last three years.

David City’s newspaper is no longer produced in David City, as the Lee-owned Banner-Press newsroom was merged with the Columbus Telegram’s. Plattsmouth also no longer has its own local newspaper, as the Lee-owned Journal merged with the Fremont Tribune.

Lee’s Enterprises stock price has plummeted from a peak of $49 a share on June 4, 2004 to just $2.30 a share as of June 22 of this year, all under the leadership of Lee Enterprises CEO Mary Junck, who has served in that role for the last 18 years. Junck currently draws a total salary of just under $2 million per year, including base pay, bonuses, stock awards and other compensation.

Casey Welsch is the host of KZUM News. He is a former employee of Lee Enterprises.