PINE BLUFF, Arkansas — WEHCO Newspapers Inc., the parent company of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, will purchase a newspaper in Arkansas from Gannett.
Gannett has agreed to sell the Pine Bluff Commercial to Little Rock-based WEHCO and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
The Commercial ceased publication on Monday under Gannett's ownership and will resume publication Tuesday as part of the Democrat Gazette, said Walter Hussman Jr., publisher of Democrat-Gazette.
Hussman said the Pine Bluff Commercial will have four pages that include local news, daily records, obituaries, an opinion page and sports. The pages will be included seven days a week in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's digital replica format, which is identical to the print edition but delivered on an iPad or other computer device.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and some other WEHCO newspapers have switched to a seven-day-a-week digital replica of the paper and deliver a print paper on Sundays.
"What we're doing here today is really unique in American newspaper publishing," Hussman said Monday.
He added, " If this works in Pine Bluff, this is going to be great for community journalism in America because it's going to show a model and a path forward for other newspapers to be sustainable and survivable."
In his letter to subscribers, Hussman said he's convinced the only way for the Commercial to continue daily publication is with a significant investment in local reporters and journalism, and to provide each subscriber with the full Democrat-Gazette.
Before being purchased by WEHCO, the Commercial was published and printed five days a week.
"We are pleased that the Pine Bluff Commercial, a newspaper with a great legacy and tradition, has found a new home with WEHCO and potentially a sustainable business model for many years to come," said Jay Fogarty, senior vice president of corporate development for Gannett.
Gannett is the largest publisher of local news in the U.S. after recently being acquired by New Media Investment Group Inc., which has owned the Pine Bluff Commercial for five years. Gannett owns nine newspapers in Tennessee, including the Tennessean in Nashville, the Knoxville News-Sentinel and the Commercial Appeal in Memphis.
In a news release, Hussman said readers have indicated the digital replica edition of the paper is preferable to reading a newspaper's website. One-on-one, in-person iPad training will also be provided to subscribers.
"They not only get the exact same information in the same place they found it in print, but even more information in a more readable format by being able to enlarge type, as well as additional features like expanded photos, videos and the ability to receive the paper earlier and anywhere," Hussman said in the release.
WEHCO Newspapers, Inc. and its predecessor newspaper companies were started by Clyde Palmer in 1909 where he was publisher of the Texarkana Gazette, and the company has remained in the same Arkansas family ownership for over 100 years, with his grandson, Walter Hussman Jr., publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and his great granddaughter, Eliza Hussman Gaines, managing editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
The University of North Carolina recently renamed their journalism school the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media and adopted a statement of core journalism values.