What Good are a Few Column Inches?
On October 15, 1944, the Omaha World-Herald published a small piece about a 14-year-old newspaper carrier who was awarded a $25 war bond for his outstanding customer service. It was the second time his name appeared in the paper (the first was on his eighth birthday in a list of other birthday boys and girls), but not the last. In fact, the boy grew up to own the World-Herald – and a lot of other companies, too.
I’m talking, of course, about Warren Buffet, currently the world’s third wealthiest individual, one of America’s most influential business people and every Omahan’s favorite celebrity sighting at modestly-priced dining establishments around town.
The vintage report was part of a larger story the OWH ran the other day about the first time various famous people appeared in their pages. Other bold-faced names included Tom Osborne in a high school football wrap-up, circa 1952; Alexander Payne for a 1977 satirical piece he co-authored for the Creighton Prep Jay Journal; and Conor Oberst for appearing in a stage production in 1993.
It was a charming glimpse into the history of Omaha and our local paper (the World-Herald had a birthday editor in the 1930s? Was that person paid in cake?) But it also confirmed a few basic tenants those of us in the biz hold dear:
- Everyone’s got to start somewhere
- Once someone’s been in the news, they tend to keep popping up in the news
It’s hard to imagine Buffet and the others cherishing their every shout-out, even the most fawning, in the press today, but I’m guessing they were all pretty delighted with that first tiny nod.
As their reputations grew, they began to build the credentials that enabled them to accomplish even more. Media attention might not have been a part of their dreams, but it definitely played a part in helping them come true…one column inch at a time.