Walter E. Hussman, Jr.

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Walter Edward Hussman, Jr.​

(Publisher of The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette;
Chief executive officer
of WEHCO Media)

Walter E. Hussman Jr., of AR.jpg

Born January 5, 1947​
Texarkana, Texas, USA

Resident of Little Rock, Arkansas

Spouse Robena Kendrick Hussman​

Three children:
Parents:
Walter E. Hussman, Sr.
​ Betty Palmer Hussman​
Relations:
Richard S. Arnold (former brother-in-law)
Clyde E. Palmer (maternal grandfather
Alma mater:
Lawrenceville School
University of North Carolina School of Journalism
Columbia University

Religion Presbyterian

Walter Edward Hussman, Jr. (born January 5, 1947), is a third-generation newspaper publisher and chief executive officer of a media conglomerate known as WEHCO Media, Inc. He is the publisher of The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in the capital city of Little Rock, Arkansas. He also owns a chain of smaller newspapers, including The Chattanooga Times Free Press and The Texarkana Gazette, and owns cable television companies in four states.

Background

​ Hussman was born in Texarkana in Bowie County in far northeastern Texas, but moved in 1949 to Camden in Ouachita County in southern Arkansas. with his parents, Walter E. Hussman, Sr., and the former Betty Palmer (1911–1990), and two older sisters. Hussman, Sr., published the The Camden News, which he had purchased from his father-in-law, Clyde E. Palmer.​

Hussman graduated in 1964 from the private Lawrenceville School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.[1] He earned his bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina and his Master of Business Administration from Columbia University in New York City. In 1970, Hussman worked as a reporter for Forbes magazine. Later he became his father's administrative assistant, then the general manager of The Camden News. He moved to Hot Springs in 1973 to become vice president and general manager of the Palmer Newspapers, which became a division of WEHCO Media[2]

​==Newspaper "war"==

In 1974, Hussman left Hot Springs for Little Rock when WEHCO purchased The Arkansas Democrat, the afternoon daily in the state capital. Hussman implemented a strategy of reducing operating costs and expanding subscriptions within the metropolitan area. Nevertheless, the advertising and circulation trends continued to be unfavorable. In 1977, Hussman sought a joint operating agreement with the rival morning newspaper, The Arkansas Gazette. However, The Gazette publisher Hugh Patterson rejected the overtures and spurred a competitive 13-year newspaper "war" between The Democrat and The Gazette.[2]

In late 1978, Hussman offered free classified want ads—a move which tripled the size of the Democrat's classified section and made it the only Arkansas newspaper to publish more than one million classified advertisements in a single year. Hussman hired reporters, editors, and photographers to enhance local news coverage and named former Associated Press bureau chief John Robert Starr as managing editor. In 1979, The Democrat switched to morning publication, a trend already underway in the industry to compete with The Gazette.

Readership increased dramatically. Newspaper circulation totals showed that in 1980, The Democrat was the fastest growing newspaper in the United States. Innovations continued, including the use of color with offset lithography printing presses. The Democrat's revenues increased from $6.7 million in 1979 to $18.4 million in 1984. The Democrat increased its daily circulation from 53,671 to 76,119. Its Sunday circulation leaped from 98,237 to 140,642 over the same period. Distraught The Gazette management filed a federal antitrust suit which accused Hussman of trying to put The Gazette out of business. On March 26, 1986, a federal jury exonerated Hussman in a verdict rendered in the Little Rock courtroom of U.S. District Judge William R. Overton.​[2]

On December 1, 1986, the Virginia-based Gannett Corporation, the nation's largest newspaper chain, purchased The Gazette from the Heiskell-Patterson family. Within five years The Democrat closed the circulation gap. The Gazette circulation was still substantially larger than that of The Democrat in 1986, but within five years, The Democrat virtually tied The Gazette in daily circulation: 133,753 to 134,027 for The Gazette. On Sundays, The Democrat actually led The Gazette, 241,361 to 225,326.

Meanwhile, Gannett suffered increasing financial losses and published the final Gazette on October 18, 1991, just days after then Governor Bill Clinton announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. Later that day WEHCO purchased all assets of The Gazette, including its subscription list. The new publication was called the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Hussman said that his company had "survived the greatest competitive onslaught in the newspaper business." ​[2]

In 1999, WEHCO purchased The Chattanooga Times andThe Chattanooga Free Press in Tennessee and combined the rival newspapers into The Chattanooga Times Free Press.[2]

Newspaper philosophy

Hussman sums up his philosophy about newspapers by referring to a statement from his father.: ​

A newspaper has a number of constituencies. Among those are readers, advertisers, employees, creditors, and stockholders. If a newspaper and its publisher always keep those constituencies in that order: readers first, advertisers second, employees third, creditors fourth, and shareholders last, then the newspaper will do well journalistically and financially, and the interests of all constituencies will be well served."

For years The Democrat was considered the conservative newspaper in Little Rock in contrast to the liberal Gazette. In the merger, the conservative viewpoint at first seemed to emerge triumphant in the combined Democrat-Gazette.

Hussman is a former chairman of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association. He was instrumental in funding the "Traveling Campus" program, which educated some seven thousand persons during 2002. Through his efforts, more than $4 million was pledged to the SNPA Foundation in 2002.[3] He was the first recipient of the Frank W. Mayborn award, given in honor of the late publisher of The Temple Daily Telegram in Temple in Bell County, Texas.[4]

In a 2007 op-ed column in the Wall Street Journal, Hussman urged newspapers to stop providing free content on-line. Too many potential readers, he said, settle for "limited" on-line coverage and never consider traditional newspaper subscriptions. Hussman called the online posting of so much of the newspaper product a "self-inflicted wound."[5]

Hussman resides in Little Rock with his wife, the former Robena Kendrick (born 1946). They have three children. The federal Judge Richard Sheppard Arnold (1936-2004) of Texarkana and Little Rock, was Hussman's former brother-in-law. Arnold was married to Hussman sister, Gale, from 1958 to 1975. His other sister is Marilyn Augur of Dallas, Texas.

In 2019, Hussman made a $25 million commitment to his alma mater in North Carolina, which named its school of journalism and media in his honor. The funds have not been fully disbursed. In 2021, Hussman sent emails to various university officials to express concern over the granting of tenure to liberal journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, one of the creators of the 1619 Project at The New York Times. However, Hussman denied having strong-armed any of the university officials over the question of tenure for Hannah-Jones.[6]


References

  1. Notable Alumni. The Lawrenceville School. Retrieved on October 23, 2019.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 The Palmer-Hussman families. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: carried in Southern Newspaper Publishers Association 100th anniversary edition (November 2004). Retrieved on October 24, 2019.
  3. Walter E. Hussman, Jr., Speech to the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, 100th anniversary edition, November 2004.
  4. Mayborn award to WEH, Jr., accessnorthga.com, no longer on-line.
  5. Walter E. Hussman, Jr., "How to Sink a Newspaper," Wall Street Journal, May 7, 2007.
  6. Joe Killian (June 3, 2021). UNC mega-donor Walter Hussman denies exerting pressure over Hannah-Jones hiring. ncpolicywatch.com. Retrieved on June 9, 2021.