Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bad news for fans of excellence in reporting; end of competition could mean no chance of thorough coverage of news

UPDATED: Democrat-Gazette, Stephens Media Plan Joint Venture in Northwest Arkansas

By Lance Turner - 9/3/2009 11:05:54 AM

After suffering "significant financial losses during the current economic recession," the
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Stephens Media plan a joint venture in northwest Arkansas,
the news organizations announced Thursday.
The joint venture would move forward if Stephens can't find a buyer for its flagship
newspaper, The Morning News. But Democrat-Gazette Publisher Walter Hussman says he doesn't
believe a buyer will be found.
"If someone comes along and buys it, then we’ll continue to compete with The Morning News
and this merger won’t be consummated," Hussman, CEO of Wehco Media Inc., which owns the
Democrat-Gazette, said in his newspaper's coverage of the deal. "We suspect that won’t
Both companies have asked the U.S. Department of Justice to evaluate the deal. The Justice
Department had requested that Stephens put The Morning News up for sale, the companies said.
In absence of a sale, the two firms plan to establish a joint venture, called
NorthwestArkansas Newspapers LLC, according to a news release available on Stephens' The organization will be "equally owned by the parties."
"The parties will contribute the assets of their Northwest Arkansas daily newspapers
(Benton County Daily Record, the Morning News, Rogers and Springdale, the Northwest
Arkansas Times, and the Northwest Edition of the Democrat-Gazette) and weekly newspapers,
real property, plants, and equipment to the new LLC. Stephens Media will be responsible
for editorial control of the local newspapers in northwest Arkansas. Arkansas
Democrat-Gazette Inc. will control advertising, business, production and circulation
functions of the new LLC, and will be in charge of the editorial functions of the
Northwest Arkansas Edition of the Democrat-Gazette."
Jeff Jeffus, publisher for the Democrat-Gazette's northwest Arkansas operations, will be
president of the new LLC, the companies said.
In announcing the deal to employees in northwest Arkansas on Thursday, Hussman said
newspaper jobs would be cut.
If the deal goes through, it would end more than 20 years of competition in the region
between two of the state's biggest media companies and wealthiest Arkansans, Hussman and
financier Warren Stephens, who owns Stephens Media.
In northwest Arkansas, the Democrat-Gazette owns the Northwest Arkansas Times and the
Benton County Daily Record. It also publishes a zoned edition of the Democrat-Gazette for
12 counties in the region.
Stephens Media owns The Morning News and several other newspapers in the region. It also
owns several papers in central Arkansas, including the Times of North Little Rock, the
Cabot Star-Herald, Carlisle Independent, Lonoke Democrat and Sherwood Voice and the
Jacksonville Patriot. will update this story.

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