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Under New Ownership

Original article published in Missouri News Tribune

Posted on Thursday, May 01, 2008

Walter E. Hussman

Walter E. Hussman Jr. takes helm of News Tribune, two other newspapers

For the first time in more than 80 years, new owners are operating the News Tribune.

Officials of Central Missouri Newspapers Inc., a subsidiary of Arkansas-based WEHCO Media Inc., and Weldon Holdings Co. on Wednesday completed the sale of the Jefferson City News Tribune, Fulton Sun and California Democrat newspapers to Central Missouri Newspapers, effective May 1.

Walter E. Hussman Jr., WEHCO's president and CEO, announced his intention to buy the three Mid-Missouri papers on March 27.

“We're excited about working with you all and putting out great newspapers,” he told News Tribune employees that day.

He became publisher of the Little Rock, Ark., Democrat newspaper in 1974, at age 27.

In early April, Hussman was named “Publisher of the Year” by Editor and Publisher magazine.

In its April issue cover profile, the national publication said it “portrays a savvy publisher who prevailed in the legendary Little Rock newspaper war that raged from the 1970s into the 1990s against two successive rivals who began with big head starts and far deeper pockets.”

E&P said Hussman's competitors underestimated his abilities to innovate and grow the “sickly” Democrat's readership, circulation and advertising revenues. When Gannett Inc. closed the doors of the Arkansas Gazette in 1991, WEHCO Media bought its subscription list and other assets, and combined the two papers into today's Democrat-Gazette.

“Now, in probably the most perilous period in modern U.S. newspaper history, it appears people are again underestimating Walter Hussman,” the E&P profile said. “For Hussman, a third-generation newspaper man, has become a contrarian in an age of new industry conventional wisdom. ...

“In an era when even family-owned papers are giving in to aggressive cost-cutting, Hussman is resisting downsizing either the newshole (the amount of space used for news stories) or the newsroom.”

In March, Hussman said neither readers nor employees should expect any immediate or wholesale changes.

“I think the niche that newspapers have is to be the most complete, well-written, well-presented source of local information that's available,” he explained. “From what I see, the Jefferson City paper is already doing that.”

Like Weldon Holdings, WEHCO Media is a family-owned company.

Its roots are in Texarkana, Tex., where Hussman's maternal grandfather, Clyde E. Palmer, bought a newspaper in 1909.

Over the years, Palmer expanded his ownership to other papers in western and central Arkansas and, in the mid-1930s, he hired his son-in-law - 1931 University of Missouri Journalism School graduate and Bland, Mo., native, Walter E. Hussman - to work in the newspaper business.

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