- The Washington Times - Friday, December 21, 2001

The Journal Newspapers said yesterday it will combine its four Northern Virginia publications into a single edition, becoming the latest publisher to tweak its product during a sluggish year for the industry.
The Northern Virginia Journal will debut Jan. 2. It will replace separate editions for Alexandria and Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William counties that have been published for decades.
The move follows a year of change for the daily newspaper chain, which also publishes separate editions for Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
In September, the Journal stopped producing Monday editions of all its newspapers. It has also laid off staffers and canceled its subscription to an independent service that monitors newspaper circulation.
A Journal executive who did not want to be named said the privately owned chain has experienced some slowdown in advertising revenue, but that it was not a factor in its decision to switch to a single Northern Virginia edition.
Instead, the executive said the chain is trying become a leaner operation. There are no plans to combine the Montgomery and Prince George's editions, the executive said.
In a front page letter in yesterday's Journals, President and Publisher Ryan Phillips said the newspaper is switching to a single Northern Virginia edition because it wants to avoid parochial coverage of the news.
"In Northern Virginia, we are all tied together. From transportation to development to crime and terrorism, we share the same fate. We at The Journal sometimes have allowed lines on a map not the events of the day to determine our news content," Mr. Phillips wrote.
The Northern Virginia Journal will also include coverage of Loudoun County, the fastest-growing county in the state, Mr. Phillips wrote.
The Journal executive, who did not wish to be named, said the chain has a daily circulation of about 140,000. He would not disclose the chain's annual revenue, but said it employs about 300 people.
The switch to a single Northern Virginia edition will save the Journal money, said industry analyst John Morton.
"It's cheaper to produce one newspaper than it is to produce four," he said.
Newspapers of all sizes have responded to sluggish advertising sales this year.
Last week, The Washington Post said it will raise the price of its weekday and Saturday editions to 35 cents from 25 cents.
Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal announced it will add color to its front page and introduce a new lifestyle section.
Suburban newspaper chains tend to suffer more than bigger newspapers during tough times, Mr. Morton said.
"Advertisers tend to withdraw from the secondary newspaper market before they withdraw from the primary market," he said.
The Journal's decision to produce a single regional newspaper differs from the approach taken by one of its competitors.
"Our strategy is to be as local as possible. Their strategy seems to be to go in another direction," said Peter W. Arundel, president and publisher of TimesCommunity Newspapers, a Herndon chain that publishes weekly editions in more than 15 Northern Virginia communities.
Some of the Journal newspapers, such as the Prince George's edition, are more than 60 years old. Most began as weekly editions and switched to daily newspapers in 1981.
The Journal has faced increased competition in recent years.
The Washington Post has introduced "Extra" editions that focus on local news in several Washington suburbs.
In addition, the Gazette Newspapers Inc., a Washington Post subsidiary, has expanded in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

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