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Newspaper joint venture kicks off Sunday

Posted: October 31, 2009 at 6:29 a.m.

— 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 - will kick off their new partnership Sunday.

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. The partnership follows a decade of headto-head competition. The Justice Department closed its investigation ofthe deal Oct. 23, clearing the way to proceed.

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 employeesinvolved in the deal, and 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 thanthe 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. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions:

Subscribers

Q. Which daily papers will I receive?

A. Subscribers will receive one of four local papers, depending on where they live, along with the Northwest edition of the Democrat-Gazette. Fayetteville subscribers will get the Northwest Arkansas Times, where Greg Harton will continue as editor. Springdale residents will receive the Springdale Morning News under editor Donna Lonchar, and Rogers residents will get the Rogers Morning News,where Leeanna Walker will remain as editor. Bentonville and Bella Vista subscribers will get the Benton County Daily Record, with Mike Jones as editor.

Readers of the Washington County Enterprise-Leader who currently receive The Morning News on Sunday will now get the Northwest Arkansas Times. Readers of the McDonald County (Mo.). Press who have been receiving The Morning News will now get the Benton County Daily Record. Rogers Hometown News readers who have been receiving the Benton County Daily Record will now get the Rogers Morning News.

Q. What if I already subscribe to both the Morning News and Democrat-Gazette?

A. The remainder of your Morning News subscription will be added to the Democrat-Gazette subscription. For example, if you have a three-month subscription to both the Morning News and the Democrat-Gazette, they will be converted to a sixmonth subscription to the Democrat-Gazette. That subscription will include delivery of one of the four local dailies, depending on where you live. If you’d like a refund of your Morning News subscription, it will be provided. Call customer service at 800-482-1121.

Q. What will be the format of the smaller daily papers?

A. Each local paper willprint seven days a week with two sections on Sundays and Fridays and one section the remainder of the week.

Q. What kind of stories can I expect?

A. The content of the four local daily papers will be concentrated on the towns where they are located. For instance, Springdale residents will get more stories about their businesses, schools, sports and community activities with a smaller dose of coverage from other areas throughout the region. The same can be said for the story content of the three other local daily publications.

Regional, state and international news will be provided by the Northwest Arkansas edition of the Democrat-Gazette, which will accompany each local paper.

Q. What kind of Razorback coverage can I expect?

A. The papers will continue to provide coverage of Arkansas sports in the Northwest edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and through the Arkansas News Bureau. Staff members of Hawgs Illustrated magazine, Clay Henry and Dudley Dawson, will also supplement the coverage.

Q. Which comics will be included in the local daily newspapers?

A. Daily comics and puzzles will include Hocus-Focus, Peanuts, For Better or Worse, Born Loser, Frank & Ernest,Mother Goose & Grimm, Non Sequitur, Six Chix, Lola, Close to Home and Marmaduke. Wordsleuth, Daily Crytoquotes, the Thomas Joseph crossword puzzle and Dear Abby are also part of the papers’ entertainment page.

Q. Why do I need to take the paper if I can read the stories free on the Web?

A. All the stories generated by the new organization will be available on the Web for its subscribers. Access on the Web to full stories from all four newspapers will no longer be free for nonsubscribers. The Benton County Daily Record and Northwest Arkansas Times Web sites are already subscription only. Rogers and Springdale Morning News sites will become subscription only on Dec. 1. Content produced exclusively for the Web by the newspapers will remain available at no charge.

Q. Will my subscription rate go up if I am only taking one paper now?

A. Current subscriptions will be honored. The rates are subject to change. Due to the competitive nature of the “newspaper war” in Northwest Arkansas, some promotional subscriptions were below the cost of materials and delivery of the newspapers and will be adjusted to normal subscription amounts over time.

Q.Will each paper have its own editorial voice?

A. There will be a singleeditorial voice for all four, local daily newspapers through a common editorial board.

Q. Who owns the papers involved in this merger?

A. Las Vegas-based Stephens Media LLC has a 50 percent stake in Northwest Arkansas Newspapers LLC. Wehco Media Inc. owns an equal 50 percent in the new venture. Wehco is the parent company of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Inc. Both parties also own newspapers in other parts of the state that are not involved in this merger.

Advertisers

Q. Will classified ads still be free?

A. Yes, there will still be free classified ads to private individuals.

Q. Will display advertising rates increase?

A. A letter will be mailed to contract advertisers explaining their options on advertising rates, but the company is committed to offering belowaverage rates on a cost per thousand basis for a newspapers of this size circulation and market.

Q.Will ads still be available in individual local daily newspapers?

A. Advertisers will have the option of buying full circulation in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for 13 counties in Northwest Arkansas or zoning their advertising into Washington or Benton counties, or buying individual ads inFayetteville, Springdale, Rogers or Bentonville.

Q. How do I reach an ad representative to discuss my options?

A. Retail sales call 442-1700 or 751-6200; classified ads call 571-6400 or free classifieds call 571-6461.

Q. How will this merger impact Newspapers in Education?

A. The Newspaper in Education program will continue in Washington, Benton, Madison and Carroll counties.

Logistical changes

Q. Which offices will remain open following the completed merger?

A. Initially, all offices will remain open. But in the next few months, staff will be relocated to the sites owned by Northwest Arkansas Newspaper LLC operations - Benton County Daily Record at 104 S.W. A in Bentonville, Rogers Morning News at 313 S. Second St. in Rogers, Democrat-Gazette press facility at 515 Enterprise Drive in Lowell, Springdale Morning News at 2560 N. Lowell Road in Springdale, and Northwest Arkansas Times at 212 N. East Ave. in Fayetteville. Company officials are still evaluating how to best utilize their assets, while some departments will be centralized, the editorial and operational departments will be in geographic regions to better serve customers and advertisers.

Online offerings

Q. What will change with the Web sites NWANews.com and NWAOnline.net?

A. Content from the four daily newspapers and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette will be on NWANews.com beginning Nov. 1. Any users visiting NWAOnline.net will be redirected to NWANews.com.

Q. Will any other Web sites change?

A. All blogs will remain the same for now. RazorbackCentral.com will redirect to WholeHogSports.com. The McDonald County Press and Washington County Enterprise-Leader sites will be hosted on NWANews.com beginning Nov. 1.

Q. Will I have to pay to access Rogers and Springdale news on NWANews.com?

A. Initially, content from both the Rogers and Springdale Morning News will be available online at no additional charge. Beginning on Dec. 1, online access to Rogers and Springdale Morning News will require a subscription.

Q. Will the weekly newspapers remain free?

A. The weekly newspapers will remain free until Dec. 1. Beginning on Dec. 1, access to the weekly newspapers online will require a print subscription or an online-only subscription of $2.99 per month.

Q. I have a print subscribe to the Morning News, will I have access to NWANews.com?

A. Beginning Nov. 1 print subscribers will need to add an online subscription at no additional charge.

Q. Can I register for online access now?

A. Yes, users can register for online access by visiting www.nwanews.com/register. Customers can also call customer support at 800 482 1121.

News, Pages 1 on 10/31/2009

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The change is worth heck (at least in the comic section) They reduced it by two pages, added in a couple worthless ones, and took out the funniest one-Pearls Before Swine! The paper is now a piece of worthless, pointless, no good junk. Waste of money! Also, not only did they take away pearls, but they added in a thing called Kid City (from sesamestreet.org.)Slylock fox was a better comic for kids. I am telling you-NEVER, EVER SUBSCRIBE TO THIS PAPER AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: dinomaster

November 1, 2009 at 2:55 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

I think this is a big mistake for the News, I believe they will loose subscribers when the start charging for on line readers, the paper has been going down hill for a long time and it will only get worse.

Posted by: ruby

November 1, 2009 at 4:36 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

The fact that I am now being forced to receive a paper I don't want (Springdale News), while at the same time having a paper taken away from me that I've gotten for over 20 years (NWA Times) is what I disagree with most about this venture. Just because one lives in one city doesn't mean they shouldn't be able to subscribe to another town's paper. In this area the towns virtually overlap, and people work in different towns than the one they live in. This consolidation is a turn in the wrong direction, IMHO.

Posted by: m7

November 1, 2009 at 6:05 p.m. ( | suggest removal )

this paper is terible bring back my NWAONLINE. Stphens Media go worship your almighty dollar but keep your hands off my paper. It is impossible to navigate this site and it SUCKS.

Posted by: STAGECOACHER

November 1, 2009 at 10:15 p.m. ( | suggest removal )