Pr. William’s News & Messenger to end publication Dec. 30

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that financial losses increased “significantly” after the Prince William County newspaper was bought by investor Warren Buffett’s World Media Enterprises subsidiary. Circulation dropped significantly, but the pace of losses slowed.

The News & Messenger — a Prince William County daily newspaper with about 8,000 subscribers — has decided to cease publication, a victim of mounting losses and declining circulation

Doug Hiemstra, president of Richmond-based World Media Enterprises (which owns the publication), told the paper’s editorial staff Wednesday that the final edition would be Dec. 30.

The company also plans to shut down the Web site Inside­NOVA.com and cancel a companion newspaper, Inside NOVA Weekly.

The News & Messenger has roots dating to 1869. It is the product of the 2008 merger of the Potomac News and the Manassas Journal Messenger, and was bought in June from Media General by a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, the holdings company chaired by investor Warren Buffett, who also holds a large stake in The Washington Post.

The Prince William paper persevered long after other suburban dailies and weeklies in Northern Virginia wilted away over the years. But it, too, suffered a “significant” circulation drop after Buffett’s World Media Enterprises took control, Hiem­stra said.

“We do not see a long-term viable way to maintain a daily news operation here,” Hiemstra wrote in an online note to readers.

The majority of print subscribers will be notified in Thursday’s edition of the News & Messenger, Hiemstra said. The paper’s 33 employees will be given severance pay and assistance in finding other jobs. They are part of a total of 105 positions that are being eliminated throughout Buffett’s media holdings before the end of the year, the company said.

“We have some opportunities within the company if they’re willing to relocate,” Hiemstra said of the News & Messenger staffers.

World Media will continue to operate the Stafford County Sun, a weekly print publication with a circulation of 20,000, and two weekly military newspapers serving the Quantico Marine Corps base and Fort Belvoir.

Commenters on the online announcement at InsideNOVA expressed concern about the void the paper will leave.

Although hyper-local reporting sources like AOL’s Patch could help fill the gap, one commenter pointed out, “what about watching those local governments? . . . Can’t rely on the government to report on itself.”

Another reader lamented the loss of her “local connection.”

Prince William County Board Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) said that he has noticed that as the News & Messenger and Washington Post newsroom staffs have declined over the years, fewer people approach him to ask about county issues. He said residents are less informed about local issues than they once were. “People will always be interested in local news,” Stewart said. “But where do you go for local news? Right now, there just aren’t a lot of resources for that other than the local papers. As those are withering away, I’m not sure what’s going to replace them.”

World Media, according to Hiemstra’s note, plans to sell the News & Messenger building and property in downtown Manassas.

Jeremy Borden contributed to this report.

Mohana Ravindranath covers IT and small business for the Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication. She joined the Washington Post after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania and has interned for Business Insider and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She is a native of Pittsburgh.
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