The 10,000-circulation Manassas (Va.) News & Messenger, which began publishing in 1869, has been struggling to compete in the Washington suburbs. It will print its last issue Dec. 30.
Mr. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said Wednesday it has no plans to close any of its other newspapers.
The Manassas closing will eliminate 33 jobs. An additional 72 corporate positions that Berkshire acquired with the Media General deal will be eliminated.
The Manassas newspaper certainly fit Mr. Buffett’s criteria as a small publication, but Terry Kroeger, who oversees Berkshire’s newspaper division, told the Omaha World-Herald that the News & Messenger had a difficult time maintaining a sense of community in the area it covered, and it had been losing money for years.
The News & Messenger, which is based in Prince William County, is also competing directly with several other media outlets in the D.C. area, including The Washington Post, in which Mr. Buffett’s company has a large ownership stake.
“We didn’t see any way to really turn it back into a profitable enterprise, reliably, so what made the most sense was to just cease publication,” Mr. Kroeger said to the Omaha World-Herald. Mr. Kroeger said he recommended the closing to Mr. Buffett.
Outsell Inc. media analyst Ken Doctor said the closing appears to be a result of Berkshire’s initial review of the Media General newspapers it bought. Mr. Doctor said the Manassas newspaper didn’t appear to be in a strong position in a competitive market, so it didn’t fit well with Berkshire’s model.
“They really prefer to be in communities where they can be the big dog,” Mr. Doctor said.
Along with the Manassas newspaper, a companion newspaper, NOVA Weekly, and two websites associated with the publications will close. The employees losing their jobs will receive severance pay and assistance finding other jobs, the company said in a statement posted on the News & Messenger’s website.
Mr. Buffett said in May that he was looking to purchase newspapers in cities and towns where residents care deeply about where they live.