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The News & Messenger Keeps It Classy

By Greg L | 15 November 2011 | Blogs, Prince William County | 11 Comments

You can add one more item to your overflowing bag of reasons why you shouldn’t subscribe or advertise in the News & Messenger today, as their editor starts making not-so-veiled threats against the founder of PotomacLocal.com, which just happens to be outworking this dinosaur on the other end of the county from me.  I can understand a bit of rivalry, accompanied by some professional level of decorum, but this is just too much.

PotomacLocal’s Uriah Kiser offers this well-meaning wish for the Thanksgiving season, which starts off this utterly bizarre episode

In this time of large corporations and media consolidation, and in this area where a local community newspaper isn’t even printed in your hometown, I hope you will continue to support an independent, unbiased and unfiltered news source.

To which Kari Pugh, the editor of the News & Messenger starts spamming the comments section on PotomacLocal’s article with a link to InsideNova and feels the urge to make sure Kiser is aware (as if he could forget) that his wife works there.  The highly professional mainstream media style behavior devolves further into “So I felt the need to point out that N&M helps support your family, and we also gave you a pretty damn good start in your journalism career, too.”

Yeah, I got the threat here also.  You go against us, and your family is going to suffer.

Media General, the owner of the News & Messenger has been losing money for quite a few years now and had been slashing staff in a desperate effort to try to make these local papers profitable.  Unfortunately, their “business solution” to the problem has been to reduce the number of local reporters on staff and pay them shockingly little in such a way their staff turnover is atrocious.  As their local news coverage increasingly suffers and they depend more and more on wire services and re-hashed press releases for content, the very reason for their existence diminishes as the quality and quantity of their local news stories plummets.

This ridiculously inept business model has thrown open a door for outfits like patch.com and PotomacLocal (as well as locally-focused blogs) to step into the widening gap to provide better local news coverage with vastly lower overhead costs, and because it’s leaner and meaner not only is it more responsive to stories as they develop, but they can compensate reporters better as their organizations are not overloaded with back-end staff and large sales teams sitting in expensive office space.  Outfits like the News & Messenger aren’t going to last much longer unless they make some major readjustments, especially if they continue to act like this.

Personally antagonizing the people who are eating your lunch is not smart business, especially when you’re already losing money.



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11 Comments

  1. Steve Thomas said on 15 Nov 2011 at 2:06 pm:
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    Never start a war with someone who buys ink by the barrel. What about when both buy it in quantity? This should be fun to watch.

  2. Greg L said on 15 Nov 2011 at 2:24 pm:
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    In the age of social media I’d suspect the PR risk to the N&M doing this far outweighs any benefit they might gain by playing mean and nasty like this. I can easily see local advertisers moving some or all of their ads away from N&M towards Patch and PotomacLocal type outfits. I’d bet they get better results doing so, and wouldn’t feel like they’re climbing in bed with an organization that uses mafia-like tactics.

  3. N&M's Toenail Fungus Problem said on 15 Nov 2011 at 4:07 pm:
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    Except these dinosaurs no longer buy ink by the barrel and their hit counts often pale to those of popular blogs.

  4. es_la_ley said on 15 Nov 2011 at 7:50 pm:
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    Looks like they removed Pugh’s comments.

    BTW, thanks for your post. I never heard of potomaclocal.com. Now I have one more reason to skip the N&M. ;-)

  5. Greg L said on 15 Nov 2011 at 9:45 pm:
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    Here’s something funny to consider: Media General, which has $26 million in assets, 20 newspapers and 18 television stations and a market cap of $83 million, feels the need to start personally attacking a website run by one guy and a couple of occasional freelancers in Woodbridge. How badly are they doing that would make them feel threatened by a little outfit like this? Their stock (NYSE:MEG) has crawled out of the sub $2 range and is now at about $3.60 so they couldn’t be in that much trouble. Considering that five years ago their stock was trading at $40, maybe they are circling the drain though and PotomacLocal is actually threatening to take over all their PWC based business.

    That would make me cry. Maybe for a nanosecond.

  6. Doug Brown said on 15 Nov 2011 at 11:38 pm:
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    Greg,

    Maybe if K. Pugh spent more time editing her own paper, rather than getting Kiser’s dog toto too, she wouldn’t come up with such ridiculous headlines about how you can report YOUR crime online to PWC police. I noticed PotomacLocal reported the same story : PWC residents can now report crime online to the police.

    PWC criminals, PWC police agents are standing by now ready to chat.

  7. Loudoun Insider said on 16 Nov 2011 at 12:30 am:
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    How ridiculous. Another example of absolutely crummy local papers in Virginia. How sad.

  8. Dave in PWC said on 16 Nov 2011 at 12:36 am:
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    Thanks for new sources of local news Greg

  9. Riley said on 16 Nov 2011 at 12:21 pm:
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    es_la_ley, Pugh’s comments can be found in full here:

    http://virginiavirtucon.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/undignified-behavior/

  10. Kris Day said on 16 Nov 2011 at 6:27 pm:
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    I’m very weary of the liberal editorials and commentaries in News and Messenger. I so love having an actual paper newspaper to read and have been reluctant to let it go. But… I am seriously considering it now because I am losing my appetite during breakfast as I peruse this nonsense. Patch has become a very good local news source for me.

  11. Sick & Tired...Still said on 24 Nov 2011 at 7:06 am:
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    I am tired of the N&M being the personal tool of local politicians. If there is a story that is important to the community, but the pols want to keep if quiet for fear of citizen action, they just choose not to report it or put a pretty spin on it. I stopped delivery of the paper because of poor service years ago, so glad I did.

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