The Bulletin, a Philadelphia newspaper that developed a loyal following for being a strident conservative voice in the region, folded this afternoon, employees confirmed.

Around 4:15 p.m., about 25 employees were called together at the newspaper's office at 1500 Walnut St. and were told by publisher Thomas G. Rice that the paper could no longer afford to operate, employees said. Yesterday's edition was the Bulletin's last.

In an e-mail tonight, Rice said he didn't want to comment.

Meredith Cunningham, 24, who handled page layouts for the sports section, said the staff had not been getting paid on time for several months. Employees were not paid last week, Cunningham said.

Jenny DeHuff, 27, the newspaper's city reporter, said she was stunned, but not surprised, by the announcement. She said she was working on a story at home when she received a text message from a colleague saying, essentially: "You heard? We're done."

Rice started the paper in 2004 by paying for the right to use the Bulletin name from the family that used to publish the Philadelphia Bulletin, which shut down in 1982 but had long been the dominant newspaper in the city.

The new Bulletin featured the original newspaper's famous slogan: "Nearly Everybody Reads The Bulletin."

It also featured the Latin "Res Ipsa Loquitur," which means "the thing speaks for itself."

The newspaper had what was regarded as mainly straightforward coverage of some local issues, but was heavily dominated by wire stories that could be viewed as critical of liberals. Its commentary pages included syndicated columns by Chuck Norris, Oliver North and Patrick J. Buchanan.

Though it catered to conservative readers, the newspaper was noticeably lacking in advertisements.

"How do you run a newspaper without any ads?" Cunningham asked.

Brian P. Tierney, publisher of The Inquirer, said he was not aware of any confirmed circulation figures for the Bulletin, though its loyalists claimed 100,000 readers.

Tierney, who was upset with the Bulletin's coverage of the bankruptcy of Philadelphia Newspapers, which owns The Inquirer, said nonetheless that he is "always sorry to see somebody go through the problems that they were going through and see the publication cease."

DeHuff, though stunned at her sudden unemployment, said she was appreciative of the opportunity she had as a young journalist at the Bulletin.

"Tom Rice gave me my first job in journalism in Philadelphia - an amazing opportunity that allowed me to work with the mayor and be constantly in and out of City Hall." she said. "I'm very lucky."

Contact staff writer Robert Moran at 215-854-5983 or bmoran@phillynews.com.