Stephens Media LLC is a Las Vegas, Nevada, diversified media holding company that publishes over 11 daily and 64 weekly newspapers in nine states, primarily in Nevada and Arkansas.
The company has been expanding its interactive Internet business, where it operates online sites for its newspapers and portal sites like LasVegas.com, which is licensed to Greenspun Media Group. The company co-owns hawaii.com with Gannett. The company is also a partner in the California Newspapers Partnership with MediaNews and Gannett. The company also formed, in November 2009, a joint venture with WEHCO Media, Inc., in Arkansas.
On November 28, 2010, Stephens Media Iowa, LLC, a subsidiary of Stephens Media, acquired several newspapers, including the Ames Tribune, Boone News-Republican, Dallas County News, Nevada Journal, Ames About People & Advertiser, Tri-County Times, and Algona Upper Des Moines from Midlands Newspapers, Inc., a subsidiary of the Omaha World-Herald Company.
The company was formerly called Donrey Media Group, which was founded by Arkansas media mogul Donald W. Reynolds and based in Fort Smith, Arkansas. After Reynolds died in 1993 at the age of 86, the company was sold to the Stephens family of Arkansas, known for their Little Rock investment banking business Stephens Inc. Some of Donrey's properties were sold off, and the company moved its headquarters to Las Vegas, Nevada, home of its largest newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The company was renamed Stephens Media Group in 2002. In June 2006, the company became known as Stephens Media LLC. The company has no connection with Stephens Media Group, a radio broadcasting company in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
In 2010, Stephens Media contracted with the litigation firm Righthaven LLC, giving it the power to enforce the company's copyrights when online violators go beyond the bounds of fair use. More than 141 lawsuits have been filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas since mid-March.
In a column published in the RJ shortly after the lawsuits began, publisher Sherman Frederick, said the primary goal with the partnership with Righthaven was to deter theft of the company's copyrighted materials. He said if the company was successful, he hoped Righthaven would find other media clients. In late August, WEHCO Media, which owns the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the Chattanooga Times Free Press, signed on with the firm. MediaNews Group has also used Righthaven to file a copyright infringement suit.
The aggressive enforcement of the Stephens Media copyrights by Righthaven was being closely watched by other publishers, as is the debate it has generated. Critics of the relatively new practice have coined it 'copyright trolling', and argue that the purpose of such enforcement is to make a profit. In the Poynter article, Stephens Media general counsel Mark Hinueber says the goal is to make sure the company's intellectual rights are protected. "We were seeing our entire work product in some stories just being right-clicked and cut and pasted into blogs, where people were selling Google ads around them and making money." The Las Vegas Sun has been thoroughly documenting Righthaven's activities and the response. The Sun’s outside law firm, Lewis and Roca, is defending several of the Righthaven suits.
Targets of the Righthaven lawsuits included bloggers, political forums, major political parties, and several of the newspaper's own sources including NORML, DailyPaul.com, Infowars, Free Republic, and others. On August 25, 2010, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) announced that they will make efforts to assist Righthaven LLC defendants to the best of their ability.
Righthaven's lawsuits came under increasing judicial scrutiny, which led to Righthaven being found in June 2011 to lack standing to sue for alleged infringement of copyrighted material to which it holds only a limited license, as such a license does not confer the right to sue for infringement. Sanctions against Righthaven and its attorney, Steven A. Gibson, of Nevada law firm Dickinson Wright, are currently being contemplated by one judge. Righthaven later had its assets seized to pay judgments levied against it in lawsuits it filed against those whom it said infringed on the copyrights of clients. As a result, copyrights which had been "sold" by Stephens to Righthaven were "sold back" to Stephens for $80,000 to pay legal fees.
In September 2009, Stephens Media and WEHCO Media Inc., owner of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, announced plans to combine their newspaper operations in Northwest Arkansas and operate as a single company. The venture was approved in November 2009 by the U.S. Justice Department and a new Arkansas Limited Liability Company, Northwest Arkansas Newspapers LLC, was formed.
Stephens Media publishes the newspapers of Northwest Arkansas Newspapers and is responsible for editorial content while WEHCO Media controls the advertising, business, production and web operations.