Warren Buffet is shutting down the News and Messenger, a paper that has been around Prince William County for 143 years. He is also shutting down its partner website Inside NoVA, which had a lively Facebook presence in the area with over 26,000 fans. Buffet bought the Media General newspaper chain last year, giving him ownership of 63 newspapers.
Buffet had purchased his newspaper empire for partly nostalgic reasons. When he first bought the chain he said, “In towns and cities where there is a strong sense of community, there is no more important institution than the local paper. The many locales served by the newspapers we are acquiring fall firmly in this mold and we are delighted they have found a permanent home with Berkshire Hathaway.” The permanent home has proven not so permanent for News and Messenger; more papers are sure to follow.
Prince William County Board Chairman Corey Stewart noted that people in his community were less informed on local issues than before and also less interested. The country has 400,00 people in it and the News and Messenger was its major local news source. Stewart asked,, “Where do you go for local news? Right now there just aren’t a lot of resources for that other than the local papers. As those are withering away, I’m not sure what’s going to replace them.”
As newspapers continue to fail around the country, likely the first to go will be the local papers. The result will be more online sources for local news. While the big local papers are trying to focus on their internet presence, the fate of News and Messenger shows that they need to maintain print circulation to continue operating as before. News and Messenger had a print circulation of only 10,000 at the time of Buffet’s decision to close it down.