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Last Reporter, John Lyon, Is Laid Off at Arkansas News Bureau

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The last reporter standing at the Arkansas News Bureau, John Lyon, was laid off Friday when GateHouse Media effectively closed the operation, which was based in North Little Rock.

Lyon’s dismissal marked the end of a once-vibrant news operation that provided Arkansas news coverage to all GateHouse publications, and before that to Stephens Media properties and subscribing newspapers across the state. GateHouse took over the bureau after acquiring Stephens Media’s newspapers and assets for $102.5 million in early 2015.

The bureau once employed nine people, including experienced journalists like columnist John Brummett, now of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and sportswriter Harry King.

Lyon, who had worked at the bureau since 2006, confirmed the job loss on Monday. “I’ll refer you to GateHouse Media for comment on its decision,” he told Arkansas Business in an email. Emails and a phone call seeking comment from three different GateHouse officials drew no response Monday morning.

Lyon, who grew up in Oklahoma City and started his career at the Elk City (Oklahoma) Daily News, joined the Southwest Times Record of Fort Smith in 2000, when it was owned by Stephens Media. He kept that job until joining Arkansas News Bureau.

Jeremy Peppas, who edits seven GateHouse publications in central Arkansas, including the North Little Rock Times, said the Times will continue operating out of offices in the US Bank building in downtown North Little Rock. “Losing a reporter of John’s caliber is a hit and will require a rethinking of the editorial approach here moving forward,” Peppas said. 

Lyon’s layoff came after a painful series of job losses at the bureau. Stephens Media laid off five full-time employees in February 2014, including bureau chief Dennis Byrd, news editor James Jefferson and reporter Rob Moritz. (Moritz is married to Arkansas Business Editor Gwen Moritz.)

King’s three-times-a-week sports column was discontinued in May, and GateHouse has turned several of its daily newspapers, including the Siftings Herald in Arkadelphia and the Daily Leader in Stuttgart, into twice-a-week publications just this year. The Pine Bluff Commercial announced on May 25 that it will no longer print a Saturday edition, leaving the Times Record as GateHouse’s only seven-day-a-week publication.

“Every once in a while, you have to take a step back and look at your business model and make tough decisions,” Ed Graves, the Commercial’s publisher at the time, said in June. Earlier this month, Graves left his job for semi-retirement in Florida.

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