The Death (And Rebirth) Of A News Town
Posted on 01.02.13 by Danny Glover @ 7:30 am

Seventeen years ago when my wife and I moved to Manassas, Va., this ink-stained wretch found himself in the heart of a newspaper boom town. With a population of less than 35,000 at the time, Manassas was the target audience of three local daily newspapers, the Manassas Journal Messenger, Potomac News and Prince William Journal. The Washington Post also had a small local bureau in the city.

The Internet revolution was in its infancy then, but as the news editor of Congressional Quarterly’s BillWatch legislative database, I had transitioned into the digital space and was an early convert to the gospel of digital media. I wanted to believe that daily print newspapers had a future but was skeptical. The move to Manassas gave me hope.

My hope for daily newspapers, at least as we old-timers know them in newsprint, died on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. That was the last day of publication for the News & Messenger, the product of an Oct. 13, 2008, merger between the Journal Messenger and Potomac News.

WordPress plugin


World Media Enterprises, owned by Warren Buffet, who has been buying newspapers across America for two years, blamed the demise of the News & Messenger on bad business conditions. “We do not see a long-term viable way to maintain a daily news operation here,” the company said upon announcing the decision in mid-November.

So Manassas is starting the New Year without its own daily newspaper, ending an era that dates to at least 1869 when the Journal Messenger started publishing.

“We can only hope that the existing papers among us ratchet up their daily coverage of our community in our sudden absence,” the News & Messenger said in its farewell editorial.

My friend Mark Tapscott, who once served as editor of the Prince William Journal and who now serves as executive editor of the Washington Examiner that absorbed the Journal Newspapers in 2004, shared his thoughts with me on the closing of the News & Messenger. “The biggest puzzler here,” he said, “is how a county of 400,000 people doesn’t have sufficient demand to support at least one newspaper or website devoted to local news.”

The good news is that we may. While we in Manassas won’t have our own daily newspaper anymore, the larger Prince William County will have two weekly newspapers and two websites covering local news in the future.

Two media companies with existing roots in the area will be responsible for three-fourths of that entrepreneurial effort. Northern Virginia Media Services will debut Prince William Today on Jan. 10, and Times Community Media will compete for local ad dollars by adding the Prince William Times to its properties this month.

Even better news from my perspective as a proponent of online local coverage, InsideNova.com will survive. World Media Enterprises had planned to close that Internet side of the News & Messenger, but Northern Virginia Media Services bought both the website and the well-read companion Facebook page.

The fourth Manassas-area media property is the AOL-owned Manassas Patch. True, the substance of that website is soft and the site may not last much longer in light of developments at Patch. But it’s a local media player for now.

In the late 1990s, I covered sports for both the Manassas Journal Messenger and Prince William Journal and later wrote a weekly column for the Journal. During that stretch I authored one of my favorite feature stories, a piece on former Washington Redskins kicker Mark Moseley, whose son played for Stonewall Jackson High School in Manassas.

Those were heady days, with press boxes at local high schools full of local reporters competing for the attention of local readers.

But the truth is that even though I remain nostalgic for the small dailies of the past, I haven’t read them regularly for more than a decade. I get my news online, local and otherwise, and I take my cues about what matters from fellow news consumers via Facebook, Twitter and other digital outlets. Potential but unpredictable readers like me are part of the reason that World Media Enterprises could not imagine “a long-term viable way to maintain a daily news operation.”

In this case, though, the messengers are the ones who deserve to be shot, figuratively speaking. The biggest reason most newspapermen can’t imagine the future is that they have defiantly viewed the market through the green eyeshades of newsrooms past for more than a decade. Now they are scrambling to make sense of a world they spent more time ridiculing than trying to understand.

Here’s hoping the new media titans in Manassas have learned from the mistakes of their predecessors — and that this will be the place where someone finally concocts the winning formula for profitable local news in the 21st century.


Filed under: Advertising and Business and History and Media and News & Politics and Social Media
Comments:

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

(required)

(required)



The Redneck Report


Featured Entries

Recent Entries

Categories

Syndication
RSS 2.0
Comments RSS 2.0
WordPress

Social Networks

Search
Archives
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
May 2007
January 2007
July 2006
April 2006
March 2006
September 2005
August 2005
June 2005
April 2004
March 2004

Blogroll

Blogs I Read

Enlightened Reads

My Other Blogs

Redneck Reads

Video Stops


Copyright © 2014 Danny Glover. All rights reserved.
Site by Three Group