The goal was never really to make money, but Fairfax News editor and publisher James Hood said the costs have just been too much to keep the local news site running. In one month, the website that’s been covering local news since 1998 will shut down for good.
“It’s a difficult market,” Hood said. “Between the city and the parts of the county, Fairfax is very amorphous. We’ve never been hyper-local, we wanted to do the kind of regional coverage the Washington Post does, but with Virginia on top rather than the District.”
Hood launched several successful online ventures including Consumer Affairs, but Fairfax News was never sustainable enough to pay for a team of reporters to run it on its own.
“I was never really able to give Fairfax News the attention it needed,” said Hood. “And revenue was increasingly difficult. Years ago, I could put up a couple Google ads up and the site could have earned a few dollars and I could put a few cents in my pocket, but not anymore.”
Hood said he put more of his focus on making the site technically smooth and functional, but looking back he said he wished he’d changed some of the priorities.
“I didn’t spend as much as I should have on the editorial side,” said Hood.
The end had been coming for a while. The stream of news stories dwindled over time and a few months ago, managing editor Ed Tobias departed from the site.
“I enjoyed working on the site,” said Hood, “but I’m in my 70s and I don’t want to have to do this every day. I couldn’t find anyone to sell it to and I didn’t want it to just wither away.”
Though the closure is much smaller on scale, Hood’s shuttering of Fairfax News is part of a nationwide spate of closures and layoffs at online news outlets.
“It’s hard right now,” said Hood. “Twenty years ago, if you were enterprising, you could make a living as a reporter covering Vienna. But those times are at abeyance. Will they come back? Who knows.”
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