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Newspaper veteran Nelson hired to lead NW Arkansas group

By Cyd King

This article was published January 22, 2014 at 3:32 a.m.

FAYETTEVILLE - Todd A. Nelson, a 35-year veteran of the newspaper business and most recently the publisher of the Decatur Herald & Review in Illinois, has been named president of Northwest Arkansas Newspapers Inc.

NAN is the print and online media group created in 2009 by Stephens Media LLC and the Northwest Arkansas edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Nelson, 56, replaces Jeff Jeffus, who in November became president of WEHCO Newspapers Inc., the parent company of the Democrat-Gazette.

NAN publishes the Northwest Arkansas edition of the Democrat-Gazette, The Morning News, the Northwest Arkansas Times and the Benton County Daily Record. It also publishes weekly newspapers in the area.

Jeffus and Nat Lea, president of Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Inc., announced Nelson’s hiring to employees gathered at the Times office in Fayetteville on Tuesday morning.

“Todd will be a perfect fit for a dynamic Northwest Arkansas market,” Jeffus said later Tuesday. “He has a proven track record of leadership and revenue generation. He is a veteran newspaperman with 35 years’ experience in the business and will work well with the existing staff in Northwest Arkansas.”

Jeffus said the media group has made “significant gains” since the Stephens-WEHCO merger five years ago. Besides newspapers, NAN operates its own website and offers online advertising opportunities, as well as a variety of print publications.

“You have to have compelling products that engage readers and get them to continue to read your products, whether it’s print or online or niche or magazine or whatever it is,” Nelson said.

He characterized NAN as “the No. 1 provider of local news, information and advertising in our marketplace.”

“Good journalism is expensive,” he added. “The public really needs to understand what journalists do versus what a blogger does. The training, the research and all the things that go into reporting … it’s valuable, and we have to have a price for it.”

In addition to serving as publisher of the Herald & Review since 2005, Nelson also was the regional publisher for Lee Enterprises’ Central Illinois Properties since 2011. The latter included oversight of the daily Bloomington Pantagraph. All told, he worked 23 years for Lee, which is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange. NAN is privately owned.

Nelson said he was won over by the area, which is roughly an hour from where he spent time with his family on Table Rock Lake while growing up in Rose Hill, Kan., just outside Wichita.His parents and two brothers still live there. He also said he is looking forward to working without the pressures of Wall Street and for a media group like NAN that’s financially stable. He and his wife, Kim, have three grown children.

“There were lots of good, compelling reasons to do this,” Nelson said about the Northwest Arkansas job.

His background is rooted in advertising.

He was a sales representative for his college newspaper at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications with an option in advertising. Nelson worked in advertising and sales for the Montgomery Publications in Junction City, Kan., and worked in advertising for Express News Corp. and Herald Newspaper Group, both in San Antonio.

Nelson got his start with Lee Enterprises with the Lincoln Journal Star in Lincoln, Neb.

Business, Pages 23 on 01/22/2014

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