Friday, August 30, 2019

GateHouse closing 2 rural Ark. papers; editors in Stuttgart and Helena seek buyer; Democrat-Gazette going digital

GateHouse Media will shutter two rural papers in eastern Arkansas on Sept. 6 and will cease local printing at the nearby Pine Bluff Commercial, Max Brantley reports for the Arkansas Times.

Editors at the Stuttgart Daily Leader and the Helena-West Helena World both say they're trying to find buyers so the papers can keep running, and that they're "actively working" with a prospect.

The news comes on the heels of the latest round of GateHouse layoffs, announced ahead of its merger with Gannett Co. It also lends credence to the fears of Peter Wagner, publisher of the N'West Iowa Review, who warned that the merger would lead to the closure or sale of many smaller, less-profitable weekly papers. Wagner sees that as an opportunity for renewed local ownership, which both Arkansas papers are pursuing, but many weeklies are having a hard time finding buyers.

In related news, Brantley reports that the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette plans to convert to a mostly digital paper by the end of the year, and will cease daily printing except for a Sunday edition. The paper has been giving subscribers iPads to wean them off print.

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