Magie Enterprises Inc, a family-owned publishing company for 50 years, has sold its newspaper holdings to Stephens Media Group, owned by the Stephens family in Little Rock, according to Gary Greene, Cribb & Associates, LLC, who represented the seller in the transaction. No financial terms were disclosed.

The newspapers are the weekly Cabot Star-Herald, the Carlisle Independent, the Lonoke Democrat and the Sherwood Voice, plus the twice-weekly Jacksonville Patriot. Also included in the sale is the Weekend Edition, a total-market-coverage publication. Stephens Media publishes 16 newspapers in Arkansas, in addition to the new acquisitions.

Cone and Betty Magie borrowed $9,000 to establish the Cabot Star in 1955, purchasing the Cabot Herald a few months later to form the Cabot Star-Herald. The Magies added the Carlisle Independent and the Lonoke Democrat in the 1960s, then the Sherwood Voice and what was then the Jacksonville Daily News in the 1990s. The couple began their publishing career in a rented two-room building in Cabot, using for equipment an old typewriter, old dining table, can-bottom chairs and an army cot, used for naps by their young children. Magie Enterprises founder and publisher emeritus Cone Magie died March 27.

“We’ve been privileged as a family to have served our communities for 50 years,” Betty Magie said. All three of the Magies’ children, Shelly Moran, Connie Buckingham and Mark Magie, have worked in the business at different times over the years. The Magies’ son has served as president and general manager of the company after his parents’ semi-retirement several years ago. Mark’s wife, Susie, is the company’s director of advertising.

“It wouldn’t have been possible to have a successful business without a dedicated and talented newspaper staff, loyal readers and committed advertisers,” Betty Magie said. The company has produced more than 8,000 different issues of the newspapers, filled with local news and advertising.

“The addition of these newspapers is another example of Stephens Media Group’s commitment to Arkansas,” said Sherman Frederick, president and CEO of Stephens Media Group. “We look forward to partnering with these fine communities.” Dennis A. Byrd, publisher of The Times of North Little Rock, the Maumelle Monitor, and chief of the Arkansas News Bureau, was named publisher of the newly acquired newspapers.

“It is a great honor to get to lead these strong community newspapers run by one of the best-known newspaper families in Arkansas,” Byrd said. “I look forward to working with the fine staff the Magies have put together and to do my part in making good newspapers even better.”

Mark Magie said his goal was to publish more local news in our towns than any other newspapers in the world. “I call it ‘refrigerator journalism … it’s the kind of stories that are displayed on refrigerators, pasted into scrapbooks and sent to grandparents,” Mark Magie said. “We’ve always tried to print the truth in a way that is fair to everyone,” he said.

Byrd praised the Magies’ standard for fair and accurate reporting. He said Stephens Media will continue that standard, adding that readers also will benefit from the stories, columns and editorial cartoons provided by the Arkansas News Bureau. He specifically mentioned columnist John Brummett, editorial cartoonist Vic Harville, and sports columnist Harry King.

Brummett was named the nation’s top political columnist in 2005 by the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors; Harville is a widely recognized editorial and sports cartoonist who three times has won the Katie award given by the Dallas Press Club and is a five-time winner of the best cartoonist award by the Arkansas Press Association; King is the dean among sports writers covering the Arkansas Razorbacks, spending more than 30 years writing for The Associated Press in Arkansas before joining the bureau in 2002.

Stephens Media Group is based in Las Vegas, where it publishes its flagship newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal. In Arkansas, Stephens Media owns three dailies — The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas, the Times Record of Fort Smith, and the Pine Bluff Commercial — and 13 other weeklies. It also publishes Hawgs Illustrated magazine, which chronicles everything Razorback. Stephens Media owns 11 daily newspapers and more than 30 weeklies across the country. Frederick said Stephens Media Group remains in an acquisition mode.

A lot has changed since the Magies entered the publishing business. In the beginning, the printing process used lead type that was melted and reused each week. When computer technology arrived in the 1970s, the Magies updated their operations with modern equipment, and continued in recent times with machinery using lasers and the Internet. The commitment to hometown news has stayed the same, however.

“While you hear of declines in circulation and the demise of metropolitan daily newspapers, I feel the future is bright for community journalism. We are still gathering and supplying local news and advertising in a credible way that readers want,” Mark Magie said.

“We feel newspapers can and should have a positive impact on the towns they serve,” Mark Magie said. Family members have served on community boards and committees, and in leadership positions in the Arkansas Press Association and the National Newspaper Association. Under the Magies’ leadership, the newspapers have won numerous journalism and advertising awards.

Cone and Betty Magie were named journalists of the year by the journalism department of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. In November, they were inducted into the University of Arkansas Lemke Journalism Society’s Hall of Honor in Fayetteville.

“Community journalism can be very personal in small towns. Because we are printing stories so often about people we know, we share moments of joy when it is good news, and moments of sadness when the news is tragic,” Mark Magie said. “It is very rewarding, though, to make a difference in our communities,” he added.

“I feel we are leaving things in good hands … the Stephens family has deep roots in Arkansas and is known for taking care of its employees. I know with their resources and leadership, the newspapers will raise the bar in community journalism even higher,” Mark Magie said. “Our family has been blessed through the newspapers over the years, and I pray that those blessings will continue for the newspapers in the future,” he added.

Byrd is an award-winning veteran journalist who has been editor of two Arkansas dailies and the Texarkana Gazette in Texas. He spent nine years at The Associated Press in Little Rock before joining Stephens Media Group in 1996, when it was known as Donrey Media Group. He also served as advertising director of the El Dorado News-Times.

He is a graduate of El Dorado High School and Henderson State University and was named to the university’s Academy of Scholars in 2002. He and his wife, Linda, have two children and two grandchildren.

Cribb & Associates, LLC of Charlottesville, Va., represented the Magie family in the sale of the newspapers, which was effective June 1.

Published June 07, 2006

Cabot, AR