Stephens Media announced through its Southwest Times-Record in Fort Smith today that it would fire 37 people as a result of turning printing operations for the Fort Smith and Van Buren papers over to printing facilities in Springdale and Lowell owned by Stephens and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette owner Walter Hussman’s media company.
Stephens Media announced today it would be expanding printing operations by moving all printing and mailroom operations from the Fort Smith and Van Buren production facilities to Northwest Arkansas Newspaper production facilities in Springdale and Lowell.
The move will increase the color capacity of the newspapers and improve packaging and mailroom efficiency.
The firings were revealed in the 8th paragraph of the story. Unspecified severance will be paid. Some may be offered jobs in Northwest Arkansas.
Stephens hopes to sell the Fort Smith production building in downtown Fort Smith.
These job cuts are on top of some 30 other job losses earlier at the Fort Smith paper. Many of those came in editorial operations.
Stephens and Hussman’s corporation, which includes the flagship Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, jointly produce newspapers in Northwest Arkansas. To an outside observer, the situation seems to continue a move to a situation in which Hussman properties are the dominant operating part of the partnership. Will a day come when the Stephens Media ownershp is only an equity piece of a unified operation, as is the case with some of its investments in California? Hard to figure how it’s more profitable to operate two sets of newspapers in Northwest Arkansas, locally branded editions for Fayetteville, Springdale and Benton County (properties of Stephens Media) stuffed inside a regional edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
The change means earlier deadlines for the Fort Smith paper, not a plus for quality of the paper. Questions naturally are raised, too, about what happens when snow or ice make the drive from Springdale to Fort Smith difficult.