Byron Tate is back as editor of the Pine Bluff Commercial, where he has worked three times before.
“I was fairly certain that Pine Bluff was about to be without a newspaper,” Tate said after Walter Hussman Jr. purchased the 139-year old newspaper from Gannett in a no-cash deal announced last week.
Hussman, publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette plans to convert the Commercial into a branded segment within the Little Rock paper.
“Unfortunately, seven-day print publication is just not a business model that works for newspapers in America anymore,” Hussman said. “I think that’s true not just for the Pine Bluff Commercial but for every newspaper in the country.”
Hussman is opting for a digital replica of the printed paper, designed to be read on an iPad. Also, it will be provided free of cost by Wehco as long as subscribers keep paying for a $34-a-month subscription.
Similarly, as with making the Democrat-Gazette digital, Hussman plans to operate the Pine Bluff paper along the same lines, with four labeled Commercial pages appearing daily in the Democrat-Gazette’s digital replica as well as in print on Sundays.
“In an attempt to save the Democrat-Gazette, we discovered a whole new way to deliver a newspaper, and more importantly than that, we learned a whole new way to deliver community journalism,” Hussman added.
Tate added, “It’s exciting opening a door to a new chapter, and it’s fun to be involved in this digital experiment, I’d guess you’d say.”
The Commercial will continue print publication and mail delivery for six weeks or so to allow subscribers to settle on the digital plan.