by Veronica Garabelli
When one door closes; another opens. Two Leesburg-based media companies saw an opening in rapidly growing Prince William County, launching weekly newspapers there in January shortly after the last issue of the Manassas-based daily News & Messenger was published.
On Jan. 9, Times Community Media started the Prince William Times and a companion website, PrinceWilliamTimes.com. The next day, Northern Virginia Media Services published the first issue of Prince William Today. The weekly uses InsideNoVa.com, the former News & Messenger website, which was bought from World Media Enterprises, the daily’s owner.
Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway, the conglomerate run by legendary investor Warren Buffett, created World Media when it bought the News & Messenger and 62 other newspapers last year from Media General Inc. The newspaper group includes seven other Virginia dailies, including, the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Daily Progress in Charlottesville.
World Media Enterprises announced in November it would close the News & Messenger at the end of the year because it did “not see a long-term viable way to maintain a daily news operation here.”
The newspaper traced its history to 1869, when the first issue of the Manassas Journal Messenger was published. In 2008, the Journal Messenger merged with Potomac News, which covered eastern Prince William. Before its closing, the News & Messenger had a staff of 33.
Prince William has become a rapidly developing suburb in the Washington, D.C., metro area. Its population grew 43 percent from 2000 to 2010 and has increased since then another 4 percent to an estimated 420,000.
Before starting its new weekly, Times Community Media already had a presence in Prince William, publishing the Gainesville Times in the western part of the county. Its five newspapers claim more than 650,000 readers in the Northern Virginia and Piedmont region.
Northern Virginia Media Services owns weekly newspapers and websites in Loudoun, Fairfax and Arlington counties. With the addition of Prince William Today, the company says its newspapers will reach almost 200,000 homes a week.
The daily Washington Post is the dominant newspaper in Northern Virginia, but Bruce Potter, regional vice president at Northern Virginia Media Services, says his company is offering a different product. The weekly papers, for example, don’t cover national news and report on state news only if it affects their communities.
“We’ll do some stuff on our local General Assembly delegation and so forth, but we’re not covering the governor or covering Richmond every day, so it’s a different kind of news source that allows us to get far deeper in the community than the big daily papers,” says Potter, a former publisher at the News & Messenger.
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