Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville, Ark. — The Justice Department has closed its investigation related to failing newspapers in Northwest Arkansas, clearing the way for a joint venture to move forward, officials of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Inc. and Stephens Media LLC announced.
The deal will be formalized Nov. 1, when the new limited liability company takes over publication of The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas, the Northwest Edition of the Democrat-Gazette, the Northwest Arkansaas Times in Fayetteville and the Benton County Daily Record in Bentonville and associated weekly newspapers in Washington and Benton counties and McDonald County, Mo.
The joint venture is a 50-50 partnership between owners of Stephens Media LLC and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Inc. The two companies have contributed all of their Northwest Arkansas assets and Stephens Media’s newspapers in McDonald County, Mo., to the new company — Northwest Arkansas Newspapers.
The partnership will publish the Northwest Arkansas Edition of the Democrat-Gazette; The Morning News in Springdale and Rogers; the Northwest Arkansas Times in Fayetteville; the Benton County Daily Record in Bentonville; weekly newspapers in the two counties, plus in McDonald County, Mo.; and the Razorback fan magazine, Hawgs Illustrated.
The Morning News, the Northwest Arkansas Times, and the Benton County Daily Record will be primarily local newspapers, as will the various weeklies. The Northwest Edition of the Democrat-Gazette will focus on regional, state, national and international news.
All of the publications will provide varying coverage of Arkansas Razorback sports.
Employees of the two companies have been sent notification under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which says their jobs will be eliminated on or about Oct. 31. However, all have or will be given the opportunity to apply for jobs with the new company.
Tom Stallbaumer, publisher of The Morning News, will remain publisher for the daily and weekly newspapers other than the Northwest Edition of the Democrat-Gazette.
Jeff Jeffus, a vice president with Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Inc., who has been running the Democrat-Gazette operations in Northwest Arkansas, will continue in that role in addition to being president of the new company.
Stephens Media will control editorial functions of all of the newspapers other than the Democrat-Gazette Northwest Edition, and the Arkansas Democrat Gazette will control business office, circulation, advertising and production aspects.
Rusty Turner, editor of The Morning News, will continue in that role, but his duties will expand to include the papers other than the Northwest Edition of the Democrat-Gazette. Susan Scantlin will remain editor of that edition.
The partnership was pursued because both The Morning News and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Northwest Edition, and their associated products were operating at a loss. The Justice Department requested that The Morning News and the other Stephens Media products pursue a sale of the newspapers before a new company could be formed. The provision was followed and no offers were made.