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The D-G feels the pain 

Plus: putting the ‘ick’ in politics.

MILLIGAN: Arkansas Republican Party Chairman.
  • MILLIGAN: Arkansas Republican Party Chairman.

Though the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and other papers owned by Walter Hussman's WEHCO Media have been relatively immune to the layoffs and budget cuts seen at other larger newspapers around the country, it's looking as if their reprieve is coming to an end. 

Paul Smith, president of Arkansas Democrat Gazette Inc., confirmed for the Arkansas Times that the across-the-board wage and hiring freeze announced last week at the Democrat-Gazette extends to all the newspapers under the WEHCO umbrella. WEHCO currently owns 13 newspapers, including the Hot Springs Sentinel-Record, the El Dorado News-Times, the Texarkana Gazette, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, and three newspapers in central Missouri acquired by Hussman in May.

While WEHCO's decision to freeze hires and wages is mild compared to the wholesale layoffs seen at other struggling newspapers across the country, Smith said that only time will tell if such cost-cutting measures will make a positive mark on the paper's long-term bottom line. He said that between now and the end of the year, there probably won't be a great effect unless advertising stops declining.

“The cost of gasoline and the cost of newsprint, coupled with other costs going up, coupled with declining revenue puts us in a bind,” Smith said. “Other newspaper companies, as I'm sure you know, have taken much more drastic steps, and I hope we don't have to do that.”

Smith said that WEHCO-owned papers have avoided the worst of the industry's woes over the last decade in part because Hussman's papers are privately held. That means he doesn't have to answer to stockholders every time the share price takes a hit. 

“There have been a lot of times when we'd go through a recession and revenues would get soft or newsprint prices went up really quickly,” Smith said. “What happened at our company is that we'd just make less money. At a lot of newspaper companies, particularly the publicly traded companies, their stockholders weren't too understanding when they made less money.”

Smith said that the current economic downturn called for harsher measures, and his bleak tone hints that there may be worse to come before the papers touch bottom. 

“This time it's different,” he said. “We're in probably the worst economic time that this country has seen since the Great Depression and people don't know when it's going to turn. It's not just a matter of making less money, it's a matter of, if you don't act prudently now, you might be in a really deep hole later.”

 

A big thumbs down to Arkansas Republican Party Chairman Dennis Milligan, who managed to work a slur against Democrats into his party's press release offering condolence on the death of Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Bill Gwatney. Gwatney was gunned down last Wednesday at party headquarters in Little Rock.  

“It is with great sadness that we have learned of the tragic death of Democrat Party Chairman Bill Gwatney,” Milligan wrote. “He was an admirable Arkansan and gave so much to this state and his party.”

No, that's not a typo on my part. Milligan did write: “Democrat Party.” While that might sound like small potatoes, in recent years, it has become commonplace for Republican pundits to call the Democratic Party the “Democrat Party.” The phrase has since spread to the campaign trail and entered the lexicon of Republican politi-speak.

While you can't get a straight answer out of a GOP wonk on why they say it that way, the best motive we can find in media circles is that Republicans are seeking to divorce the Democratic Party from the notion that they're small-d democratic. Insulting, petty and childish? Yes, yes and hell, yes. But it is an honest-to-goodness  phenomenon. George W. Bush gave the usage of “Democrat Party” a big boost by employing it during his campaign against John Kerry, and recently, John McCain has adopted the practice. What's more, we can tell you that hearing it said that way burns many Democrats right down to the quick — which is, come to think of it, probably the very reason those who say “Democrat Party” say it that way.

Arkansas Republican Party spokesperson Elizabeth Aymond said that use of the term might have been a clerical error.

 

Party on!

david@arktimes.com

 

 

 

 

 

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