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Thursday, November 15, 2012

REUTERS: Warren Buffett's Berkshire shutters Virginia newspaper

Wed Nov 14, 2012 3:54pm EST
(Reuters) - Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway plans to shutter the 143-year-old News & Messenger in Manassas, Virginia, just six months after it was scooped up from Media General.

The 10,000 circulation newspaper, its website, and its companion weekly publication will close on December 30, the day the final print edition will be published. The move affects the staff of 33 whose jobs will be eliminated.

The announcement was made on Wednesday by World Media Enterprise, which operates the 63 newspapers that Berkshire Hathaway acquired from Media General in June.

"Business conditions drove us to this decision," wrote Doug Hiemstra, president of World Media Enterprises, in a post published on the News & Messenger's website

"We do not see a long-term viable way to maintain a daily news operation here."

Buffett, who not too long ago derided newspapers as investments, changed course this year, snapping up scores of small and mid-sized papers throughout the United States.

In addition to the majority of Media General's newspaper properties, he recently purchased a paper in Texas and took a small stake in the newspaper chain Lee Enterprises.

Known as the "Oracle of Omaha," Buffett's acquisition approach to newspapers is to buy small publications that cover the local market. Though he holds a stake in the Washington Post Co, he shuns large metropolitan newspapers.

The closing of such a small paper in the Berkshire stable could be a sign that even publications that are laser-focused on community news are facing serious challenges.

Indeed, Buffett said in a CNBC interview in October that revenue is down about 1 percent at Berkshire's smaller papers.

"Let me be clear: World Media remains bullish on community newspapers and our ability to publish news and advertising content on a variety of platforms that is useful to our readers and the communities in which they live," Hiemstra wrote on the News & Messenger's website.

(Reporting By Jennifer Saba; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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