WEHCO Media eliminates 86 newspaper jobs, including 16 at NWA Democrat-Gazette

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 2,537 views 

Little Rock-based WEHCO Media Inc., which operates newspapers in Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri, laid off 86 employees Tuesday (Oct. 24) across nine markets.

Mark Lane, president of the company’s newspaper division, said the number is a mixture of part-time and full-time employees, and represents about 5% of the employees in the WEHCO newspaper division.

“Every department was impacted to some degree,” Lane told Talk Business & Politics-Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “It just depended on the size of the market.”

Todd Nelson, president and general manager of the WEHCO-owned Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, told Talk Business & Politics-Northwest Arkansas Business Journal the newspaper reduced its staff by eight full-time employees and eight part-time employees. He said the cuts were made in the circulation and editorial departments. The company employs about 275 people, Nelson said.

He said the affected employees have all been notified and no other cuts are planned. The layoffs will be explained in a story scheduled to be published in the Wednesday morning edition of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Nelson said.

“As we transform our newspaper to a multimedia, multi-platform and multi-audience business, it’s necessary to align our resources in the areas that offer potential growth today and in the future,” Nelson said in a statement. “Unfortunately we’ve had to make some difficult decisions and reduce our workforce.”

Lane did not say specifically how many employees were let go at two of WEHCO’s largest newspapers — the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the Chattanooga Times Free Press — but did say layoffs at each paper were “a few more” than the number of jobs affected in Northwest Arkansas.

WEHCO is an acronym for Walter E. Hussman Co. and is pronounced WAYCO. The family-owned business was founded in 1909 and today operates daily and weekly newspapers, magazines, digital agencies and cable television companies in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee.

In Arkansas, the company owns several daily and weekly newspapers, including the state’s largest newspaper — the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette — and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, a publication formed in January 2015 with the consolidation of five northwest Arkansas daily newspapers into a single regional newspaper.

As a result of the format change at the time, the newspaper eliminated 15 positions from its workforce of 373, or less than 4%. A consolidation of newsrooms eliminated nine positions, including editors. Another six positions came from other departments. In addition, newspaper offices in Rogers and Bentonville were closed.

The one regional publication is published as the “B” section of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The consolidation meant the end for the daily banners:

  • Benton County Daily Record
  • Northwest Arkansas Times
  • Morning News of Springdale and Rogers

WEHCO does business in Northwest Arkansas as Northwest Arkansas Newspapers LLC, an entity formed in 2009 as the result of a joint venture between WEHCO and Stephens Media, which published The Morning News.

The two companies each had a 50% ownership interest until last year when WEHCO acquired Stephens Media’s interest and became sole owner.