Friday, May 30, 2014

Layoffs in Fort Smith as dark newspaper days continue

Posted By on Fri, May 30, 2014 at 8:01 AM

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Arkansas Business confirms some details of continuing cutbacks at Stephens Media's Southwest Times Record in Fort Smith.

Five layoffs were announced this week and they follow earlier unspecified cuts. Publisher Tom Stallbaumer said the paper was trying to meet expense and revenue goals. In other words, make a profit.

The layoffs follow firings at Central Arkansas weeklies owned by Stephens Media which the corporation won't discuss and apparent retrenchment at its flagship Las Vegas newspaper, once one of the country's most profitable. The Little Rock family that owns the chain probably can take comfort from years of profitable operation and sale of some assets that long ago repaid their purchase price of the old Donrey Media group.

An anonymous source of mine, who's been right so far on everything that was confirmed yesterday, has told me the cuts went far deeper than Stallbaumer has indicated in remarks to Arkansas Business and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this week. This is the third round of layoffs with combination of 16 layoffs and leaving vacancies open producing a much larger reduction in staff. Cost-cutting has included janitorial services, the pressroom and, now, deep cuts in writing and editing positions (three writers and a page designer this week). One account from the newsroom about an editor's explanation of the chain's effort to reduce newsroom costs from 16 to 10 percent of revenue (meaning a 37 percent cut in the newsroom budget) said there hadn't been a raise for the staff in seven years.

Anybody can cut expenses (AKA people) to reach a break-even point in profit/loss. Except that, at some point. the sources of revenue — AKA readers and advertisers who covet the readers — might decide the product isn't worth the expense. Tough days for us all.

I did a quick scan of Fort Smith newspaper this morning on-line. Didn't see a mention of layoffs.


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