Non-Newsroom Cuts Eliminate 28 Jobs at Democrat-Gazette

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The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette of Little Rock, wrapping up its bold shift to digital publishing, announced 28 non-newsroom layoffs Wednesday, mostly in production and printing.

The announcement came a shortly after Publisher Walter Hussman Jr. was quoted by the Poynter Institute for Media Studies as saying, “We can’t just lose money year after year, and that’s the way it’s going.”

Democrat-Gazette President and General Manager Lynn Hamilton announced the layoffs in a memo that also noted the progress of the paper’s transition to producing a printed paper only on Sundays, print’s only profitable day. Other days subscribers will receive their news via a digital replica, and the paper is offering the free loan of an iPad to all digital subscribers who want one.

One prominent name in the downsizing is Scott Stine, sources said. Stine was vice president of advertising and marketing and had worked at the Democrat-Gazette for more than 15 years, including stints as classified advertising director and advertising sales director. 

Hamilton said the transition to digital delivery “allows us to become profitable and sustains our ability to provide high-quality local journalism into the foreseeable future.”

Unfortunately, he wrote, “in order to realize this bottom-line improvement, it was necessary today to lay off 28 employees as part of an overall plan to reduce expenses.”

The memo said the digital transition had swept 63 of the state’s 75 counties. A dozen counties served by a sister paper, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, are not included, Hamilton said.

“A digital replica edition of the newspaper is now available seven days a week, and a printed edition is delivered only on Sundays,” the memo continued. “No newsroom positions are involved. Our readers will see no change in the daily editions of the newspaper.”

The Democrat-Gazette has an estimated 100 workers in its newsroom. Hamilton lamented the loss of longtime colleagues, and thanked them for their contributions “to the Democrat-Gazette’s past success, some of them for many, many years.”

According to Hussman’s Poynter interview, 27,000 iPads have been distributed so far in the digital evolution, and 87% of subscribers statewide have converted to digital subscriptions.