The void did not last long. Less than three weeks after the announcement that the Manassas News & Messenger newspaper and its Web site InsideNoVA.com were folding, a new weekly newspaper and Web site were announced Monday to continue covering news in Prince William County.
Northern Virginia Media Services, which already publishes Leesburg Today, Ashburn Today and the Sun-Gazette papers in Arlington and Fairfax counties, will launch the new journalistic enterprise. The as yet unnamed product will be overseen by Bruce Potter, a former publisher of the News & Messenger, and edited by Kari Pugh, the editor of InsideNoVA.com. They hope to begin publishing next month.
The News & Messenger and InsideNoVA were purchased last year by Warren Buffett as part of the Media General newspaper chain, and slated to close Dec. 31 because its daily print circulation had declined to about 10,000 and Buffett’s staff in Omaha said they could not see a way to make it profitable.
But Potter thinks a weekly publication, along the lines of the 60-90 page weekly editions of the ad-thick, news rich Leesburg Today, can be ”very successful. The immediate response this morning indicates there’s a demand for a good local newspaper and Web site. I know it presents some challenges but we think it’s worth trying.”
Pugh, the new editor, launched a Facebook page called NoVa Today the day after the closing of InsideNoVA, and she’s already got 851 followers, and it’s already covering news around Northern Virginia. She doesn’t know how many staff members she’ll get or where exactly they’ll work, though they’ll start out in Leesburg.
“I want it to be the kind of paper that people can’t wait to read every week,” she said of the new publication, which may well follow in the format of Leesburg Today and be called Prince William Today, Manassas Today or NoVa Today.
Pugh wants the newspaper to be a combination of hard-hitting news, ”watchdog stuff,” and the little things: pictures of cheerleading teams, weddings, obituaries, local sports. The Web site would be for the daily news updates.
But the paper needs community support. “Everybody says, ‘I’m gonna miss the News & Messenger,’” which existed for 143 years. “But they’ve gotta support us. We’ve got to have advertisers and sponsors.”
And they need readers. So like NoVa Today on Facebook now, buy the print edition when it happens, and leave the memory of Warren Buffett in the rear view mirror.