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July 19, 2016

Local investment group buys The Fauquier Times

The new owners pledge to rebuild the newspaper, whose circulation has fallen to 9,400, down more than one-third in the last decade.
Our goal is a newspaper that is as good and as honest and as able as are the people of Fauquier County. We have a lot of work to do before we get there.
— George R. Thompson, Piedmont Media chairman
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Editor
Fauquier County’s weekly newspaper has sold to a new, local ownership group.

The Fauquier Times and the buyers announced the deal late Tuesday afternoon.

Newly-formed Piedmont Media LLC will publish its first edition of the newspaper Aug. 24, according to Marshall resident George R. Thompson, who assembled the investment group and headed purchase negotiations that started more than a year ago.

“For the first time in recent memory, The Times will be locally owned and locally managed,” Mr. Thompson said in a press release. “Our goal is a newspaper that is as good and as honest and as able as are the people of Fauquier County. We have a lot of work to do before we get there.”

Terms of the deal remain confidential.

“Our readers and advertisers in Fauquier are very well-served by this transaction,” Fauquier Times owner Peter Arundel said in a story on Fauquier.com, the newspaper’s website. “The buyers are very passionate about this county and the vital role that the paper plays in nurturing its special character.”

The transaction includes the 9,400-circulation newspaper, along with two free-distribution weeklies, The Gainesville Times and The Prince William Times. It also includes The Piedmont Business Journal and InFauquier and InPrince William magazines.

Mr. Thompson pledged major changes in the Fauquier newspaper, including “an editorial page that is straight down the middle. We will be guided by our readers.”

He began advertising for a publisher and an editor more than a month ago.

Over the last decade, The Fauquier Times has faced challenges that have hammered newspapers across the nation. The recession and changing habits resulted in the losses of advertising and readers.

From its peak of about 14,000, paid circulation has declined more than one-third, by 5,000 copies a week. Much of classified and display advertising has migrated to online media. Like its peers, The Fauquier Times began charging for obituaries and relying more on niche publications to compensate for the loss retail ads in the newspaper.

The Times cut its newsroom staff in half from a peak of 15 full-time journalists a decade ago.

“We will invest in expanded coverage of the topics of greatest interest to the people who hold the county dear,” Mr. Thompson said. “Our primary objective is to improve, over time, reporting and presentation of news, local business, events, agriculture, conservation, sports, equestrian and other features.”

Thomas Frank founded The Fauquier Democrat in 1905. It changed ownership several times before Upperville resident Hubert Phipps bought the newspaper and published it for 33 years. Mr. Phipps in 1939 constructed the newspaper’s two-story, brick office building at 39 Culpeper St. in Warrenton.

After another brief ownership change, the late Arthur W. “Nick” Arundel purchased the newspaper in 1974. In the 1990s, Mr. Arundel changed the newspaper’s name to The Fauquier Times-Democrat, to bring it into alignment with his group that once included 17 publications. After Mr. Arundel’s death in 2011, his eldest son Peter bought out other family members’ ownership interests.

In 2013, the newspaper dropped “Democrat” from its name. A year earlier, the Arundel family sold the downtown office building to a Northern Virginia real estate investment and management company. The newspaper remains a tenant in the building, subdivided to house other renters.

Discussion of the pending sale has circulated widely in the community since last fall.

Mr. Thompson, an active conservationist and businessmen, recruited “dozens of” investors throughout Fauquier. An engineer, he founded and sold Commonwealth Scientific Corp. in Alexandria. He served 30 years on the board, much of that tenure as chairman, of the former Marshall National Bank & Trust Co.

The deal will leave the Leesburg-based Virginia News Group – formerly Arundel Communications — with just one newspaper, The Loudoun Times-Mirror, a free-distribution weekly with a circulation of 65,000. Arthur Arundel purchased the Leesburg newspaper in 1963.

FauquierNow.com will provide more in-depth coverage of the newspaper transaction this week.
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litdesign · July 22, 2016 at 4:40 pm
getting ready for the Next go-round
martinkus · July 21, 2016 at 4:03 pm
I agree with Silli.

The paper became way to political and, at times, one-sided. Removing the name "Democrat" from its title was just plain stupid! Hopefully the new local ownership will heed the advise of county residents!
Silii · July 21, 2016 at 3:29 pm
Sure hope this improves what has become a pitiful paper.
Bootsie · July 21, 2016 at 9:45 am
OK, sounds good. Be local; think local. So do not continue to editorialize via those idiotic anti-conservative-value cartoons we have seen in the past. That's the reason I cancelled my subscription to the "Democrat" several years ago. The name change was meaningless.
If or when I subscribe, I'm not willing to pay for NoVA "opinion" being created/managed/disseminated from outside the CeVA counties.
Hope you understand this going forward through your "middle of the road" intentions. Balanced opinion is always welcome. But don't mimic the WashPo or NYT editorial pages. We are a very different constituency here in Fauquier. Hope you understand that fundamental business decision ..... and good luck if you follow through. Be fair, and especially be reflective and appreciative of the exceptional values and opinions of your regional residents/patriots. Yes, we are exceptional and very proud of it.
Broad Run, VA
Rover 530 · July 20, 2016 at 9:17 pm
This is a business decision that must have caused some degree of pain to Peter Arundel. His father and family was very proud of the newspaper. It's a good thing that the paper will be under local ownership. Many outside of Fauquier do not grasp what we are about. My only concern is who are the rest of the members of Piedmont Media LLC. What is their agenda? Will the editorial policy be truly independent and unbiased? I hope so. This is new and can be exciting for the exchange of information in our county.
Stacie Griffin · July 20, 2016 at 3:49 pm
I hope we see more coverage of our local schools. There are a lot of great activities and accomplishments that our local students contribute beyond sports. I get that a Sports section sells advertising, but sure would like to see more coverage of the other great things about our students and our teachers.
TooTrue · July 20, 2016 at 10:08 am
This is very good news. Perhaps with this change and Don now at Fauquier Now some honest news reporting is on the horizon.
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