Two longtime Philadelphia community newspapers became history this week with the closing of the Germantown Courier and the Mount Airy Times Express, according to employees of their parent company.

The Journal Register Co., based in Yardley, Bucks County, closed both papers and laid off their staffs on Monday, said a staffer at the Roxborough Review, which operates from the same Ridge Avenue building as the two closed papers.

The shutdowns follow the company's closings in December of three other Philadelphia community papers - the Olney Times, the News Gleaner and the Northeast Breeze.

Stuart London, the News Gleaner's sports editor, said in December that publisher J. Wesley Rowe Jr. had cited the struggling economy and an unsuccessful attempt by Journal Register to sell the papers as the reasons for their closings.

In addition, the Associated Press reported yesterday that Journal Register this week will close the eight weekly newspapers in its Taconic Press group in New York's Hudson Valley.

Tom Cincotta, publisher of those weeklies, said that the closings are a result of the bad economy, which has hurt the newspaper industry nationwide. Those papers will publish their last editions tomorrow.

Journal Register, which publishes the Delaware County Daily Times and the Trentonian, recently closed several weeklies in Connecticut and sold two dailies there.

In Germantown yesterday, the news of the demise of the weeklies came as a shock to residents.

"Are you kidding me?" said Brian Matthews, 51, when told by a reporter that the issue of the Courier he was holding would be the last.

"I've been living in Germantown all my life and we've always had the Courier," said Matthews, who stood outside his mother's house, on Price Street near Baynton. "This is terrible. It's a total loss."

"It's very sad," said Sally Maddox, who was mailing a letter at a box on Price Street. "We'll definitely miss it around here."

Attempts to reach the Journal Register Co. were unsuccessful yesterday. *