Gannett sells Pine Bluff Commercial to Arkansas newspaper

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AP) — Gannett Media Corp. sold the Pine Bluff Commercial publication to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and its parent company, WEHCO Newspapers Inc. of Little Rock.

The Commercial ceased publication Monday under Gannett's ownership and will resume Tuesday as part of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Democrat-Gazette Publisher Walter Hussman Jr. said the Commercial will be published in a digital replica format seven days a week as part of the Democrat-Gazette. The digital replica is identical to the print edition but delivered on an iPad or other computer device.

“What we’re doing here today is really unique in American newspaper publishing,” Hussman said at an announcement event Monday. “What we have done so far with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and also the El Dorado News-Times, is we have switched to this seven-day-a-week digital replica of the paper and we deliver a paper on Sundays.”

The combined newspapers plan to print and deliver to subscribers in the Pine Bluff area through Oct. 12. After that, subscribers will receive a print edition only on Sundays as part of the Sunday edition of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

“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,” Hussman said, noting that the Commercial has lost a lot of subscribers.

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.

Jay Fogarty, senior vice president of corporate development for Gannett, called the Pine Bluff Commercial a newspaper with a great legacy and tradition, and said the company is pleased the publication has found a new home.