The local media headline of the week is a depressing one: The weekly Gazettes, which cover Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, will print their final editions next week, as staff discovered in a meeting this morning at the paper’s Gaithersburg offices. In one form or another, the Gazette has covered Montgomery turf since 1959 and was a property of The Washington Post Co. until its purchase in 2013 by Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos. The weeklies have been published under the banner of Post Community Media.
As the Washington Post’s Bill Turque notes, the company notified Montgomery officials of its move:
The letter from Post Community Media identified about 70 jobs that will be lost in the closure.
Davis Kennedy, the publisher and editor of the Current Newspapers in the District, says he expressed interest in stemming at least some of the job losses. “We actually offered to put a deal together to buy it … and were told no,” says Kennedy, who adds that the offer was routed through a broker. The Current Newspapers received no explanation as to why his inquiry was rejected.
For Kennedy, purchasing the Gazette would have set up a reunion. He bought the paper in 1979, when it was the Gaithersburg Gazette, and proceeded to gobble up other community newspapers in the county until he had Gazette editions in Rockville, Germantown, Potomac, Bethesda and Chevy Chase. The Washington Post Co. bought Kennedy’s Montgomery assets in 1993. It created the Prince George’s edition in 1997.
Kennedy operates the hyperlocal Current newspapers in the District — Rock Creek Current, Georgetown Current, Dupont Current, Foggy Bottom Current and Northwest Current (two editions). “We at the Current have five local editions and don’t cover the city yet,” says Davis. And that dynamic gets at why he’d expressed interest in the Gazette. The current management, he says, spread the coverage too widely and neglected to cover the discrete communities. As he said in a history of the Gazette papers, his strategy was “very, very local news.” Accordingly, he was looking to “localize” the Gazette again and “go back to covering areas that they stopped covering,” he says.
An e-mail sent from Post Community Media management to staffers offered this explanation for the sale: “After a comprehensive but unsuccessful effort to find a buyer for The Maryland Gazettes, we are sorry to report that they will cease publishing effective June 18, 2015. The publications, through their employees, have made a positive contribution to the community over the years and this is truly a heartfelt loss for all of us.”
When reached for comment, Kris Coratti, a spokeswoman for the Washington Post, said the company has no record of Kennedy’s inquiry.