The publications of Northwest Arkansas Newspapers LLC — the Northwest Arkansas Times, Springdale Morning News, Rogers Morning News, Benton County Daily Record, Northwest edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and associated weekly papers — began their new partnership Sunday, November 1, 2009.
The 50-50 joint venture between Stephens Media LLC and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Inc. was announced Sept. 3 after both parties reported revenue losses related to higher newsprint costs and sluggish advertising sales and after an attempt had been made by Stephens to sell their newspapers. The partnership follows a decade of head-to-head competition. The Justice Department’s investigation of the deal was completed on Oct. 23, clearing the way to proceed. Cribb, Greene & Associates assisted and advised Stephens Media in both its efforts to sell and merge its newspapers.
The new venture will allow the papers to return to profitability by pooling resources and assets, allowing for better overall operating efficiency, said Tom Stallbaumer, publisher of The Morning News.
There will be job losses. Employees at the publications were notified and given an opportunity to apply for positions at the new company.
Stephens Media reported 188 employees involved in the deal, while the Democrat-Gazette has 369 employees, including 101 part-time workers affected by the merger.
The Democrat-Gazette will take over the advertising, business, production and circulation duties for the new venture. Jeff Jeffus of the Democrat-Gazette will serve as president of Northwest Arkansas Newspapers LLC, while Stallbaumer will be the publisher of the newspapers other than the Northwest Arkansas edition of the Democrat-Gazette.
The newsroom duties and responsibilities of the new company were split with The Morning News Editor Rusty Turner overseeing editorial operations for all the papers involved in the merger with the exception of Northwest Arkansas edition of the Democrat-Gazette. Susan Scantlin will continue as editor of the Democrat-Gazette’s Northwest edition.
Subscribers and advertisers in the affected publications will receive letters in the next few days with specific details and further explanation of how the merger could affect them.