by Max Brantley
For newspaper junkies, here's some timely fodder for the premiere Wednesday night of a documentary on the rise and fall of the Arkansas Gazette. (It's an invitation-only event but we'll be telling you of future public screenings in the days ahead.)
The link is to a report on how newspapers that are family owned -- or, as in St. Petersburg, Fla., owned by a nonprofit -- are less pressured by stockholders and thus insulated from the ravages of cost cutting in the name of profits. They still make plenty of money, make no mistake, if not the rapacious sort of profits desired by many chain operations, such as Gannett, the final owner of the Gazette.
Arkansas's dominat publishing organizations are, as it happens, tightly controlled by individuals who live in Arkansas -- Walter Hussman and Warren Stephens. This has resulted in several newspapers with larger staffs and bigger page counts than you could expect in a monopoly market controlled by Gannett or the Tribune Corp., to name a couple. This is particularly true in the competitive Northwest Arkansas newspaper market and at Hussman's flagship Democrat-Gazette. Some of the smaller papers are traditional monopoly cash cows, however.
RELATED: It's hard to make those 30 percent profit margins when your circulation is dropping.