Two weekly newspapers in suburban Maryland will close and others there and in Virginia will be sold by Post Community Media, part of The Washington Post and Cos., the company announced Friday.
The Gazette newspapers in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties will print their final editions June 17 and 18 after more than 55 years of publishing.
The community papers have suffered through drops in advertising and other financial struggles, including three waves of layoffs in the past four years. Post Community Media closed the paper’s Frederick County office in 2013.
Post Community Media said it will give 60-day notices to employees with severance and benefit details. Job eliminations are “expected to be permanent” and occur on Aug. 11, a company letter to Montgomery County officials said.
The shutdown will affect 69 jobs, including 12 reporters and two photographers, the letter said. The Gazette headquarters in Gaithersburg will also close.
Corporate advertising director Dennis Wilston and corporate controller Mike McIntyre said in the e-mail to employees that they had “made a sincere and earnest effort to keep our two free community newspapers financially viable,” including a “comprehensive but unsuccessful effort to find a buyer.”
“However, as we have seen across the country with suburban papers that border markets with strong major metro papers,” they wrote, “even extensive expense reductions and the development of new products are not enough to offset declining advertising revenue for individual papers.”
“The publications, through their employees, have made a positive contribution to the community over the years,” the executives wrote. “This is truly a heartfelt loss for all of us.”
First published in Rockville in 1959, the Gazette grew to become a free community paper with a circulation of 550,000 in 2011. The papers delivered news on local government, schools and events free to homes on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The Washington Post Co. acquired the publication in 1993 after buying an 80 percent stake the previous year. Amazon.com founder Jeffrey P. Bezos bought The Post and Post Community Media, under the firm Nash Holdings, for $250 million in 2013.
“The closing of The Gazette newspapers in Montgomery County is sad news,” Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said in a statement. “The Gazette has long been an influential asset to our county communities and a vital source of information. My heart goes out to Gazette employees affected by this closing.”
Adams Publishing Group, which owns five regional newspaper companies in Ohio, Minnesota and Wisconsin, will buy Post Community Media’s Southern Maryland Newspapers and Comprint Military Publications, which print 13 papers in counties and at military installations across Maryland, Virginia and the District.
The company’s Fairfax County Times, in Virginia, will be sold to Whip It Media, whose chief executive, Richard Whippen, was the paper’s former general manager.
Readers and officials expressed sadness Friday. “There has not been a better avenue to get information to county residents,” said Neil Greenberger, legislative information officer for the Montgomery County Council.
“For the moment, nobody does what we do. Nobody covers these communities,” former publisher Chuck Lyons said in a 50th anniversary video in 2011. “If we went away tomorrow, there’d be a heck of a lot of news go away.”
Correction: Final editions for The Gazette, a Post Community Media newspaper delivered Wednesdays and Thursdays in suburban Maryland, will publish June 17 in Montgomery County and June 18 in Prince George’s County.