Warren Buffett closes former Media General newspaper in Virginia

Omaha World-Herald | Inside NOVA
The Manassas (Va.) News & Messenger will stop printing at the end of 2012, Steve Jordan reports. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought the paper from Media General when it purchased most of the chain’s other newspapers in May. Berkshire’s World Media division runs the newspapers.

Terry Kroeger, chairman of World Media, said the newspaper is in direct competition with many other publications and, being part of a large metropolitan area, had a tough time finding the sense of community that a community newspaper needs to prosper. He said the paper had been losing money for years.

One hundred and five positions will vanish as a result of the closing, which includes the paper and the Inside NOVA website.

Thirty-three jobs at the paper will go, as well as corporate jobs, World Media President Doug Hiemstra tells staff in a letter (PDF):

The 105 positions are scattered throughout WME’s three operating groups, Southern, Virginia and Richmond. Most of the positions affected were either part of the Media General corporate staff prior to the acquisition or part of the News & Messenger staff.

“No additional job eliminations are planned or anticipated,” Hiemstra writes. Several other small newspapers — including the Quantico Sentry, the Belvoir Eagle, both contract papers produced for military bases, and the weekly Stafford County Sun — will remain in operation, Hiemstra says in the letter.

In a letter to News & Messenger readers published on Inside NOVA, Hiemstra writes:

Let me be clear: World Media remains bullish on community newspapers and our ability to publish news and advertising content on a variety of platforms that is useful to our readers and the communities in which they live.

Most people at the news orgs “will work through mid-December,” Hiemstra writes. “All will receive severance and assistance in resuming their careers elsewhere.”

Kroeger tells Jordan:

“The rest of them, we’re delighted with. It’s just this one piece of it that had something that we didn’t think we could overcome.”

Buffett newspaper primer: The Oracle of Omaha already owned the Buffalo News and the Omaha World-Herald when Berkshire Hathaway purchased most of Media General’s newspapers — except the Tampa Tribune, which was sold to an investment firm last month. Buffett believes “newspapers that intensively cover their communities will have a good future.” He also likes paywalls. He’s said he would consider buying more newspapers, and then he did. Buffett’s company currently owns 88 weekly and daily papers in eight states.

The Tampa Tribune competes with the Poynter-owned Tampa Bay Times.

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