UPDATE: Democrat-Gazette Names New Vice President, General Manager

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Monday named Nat Lea as vice president and general manager of the newspaper. Former general manager Paul Smith will remain with the newspaper as president, according to the announcement.

The Democrat-Gazette announced the changes on its Web site on Monday.

The announcement said Lea would oversee the 63 Arkansas counties that receive editions of the newspaper printed in Little Rock. Smith will oversee "newspaper operations including the Northwest Arkansas edition that is printed in Lowell and other publications."

He will relinquish the title of general manager, the paper said.

Lea has worked in various capacities of the Democrat-Gazette's parent corporation, Wehco Media Inc., most recently as publisher of The Sentinel-Record in Hot Springs.

The moves come as the Democrat-Gazette, the state's largest daily newspaper, continues to integrate newspapers in Stephens Media Group's northwest Arkansas operations into a partnership announced last year.

Smith moved to Little Rock in 1974 to become managing editor of the Democrat when Walter E. Hussman Jr. bought it. In 1981, Smith added the duties of vice president, and he held both titles until six years ago, when he became president of Hussman's Wehco Media Inc. Since then, Smith continued to run the Democrat-Gazette while other publishers in the Wehco chain reported to him.

Lea's promotion means the Democrat-Gazette department heads in Little Rock will report to Lea, leaving Smith to oversee the company's other papers. Smith, who will soon turn 65, said the move was meant in part to groom the next generation of managers in the company.

"Really the only change is, I won't have as much daily and direct involvement with Little Rock," Smith said. "Nat will take over that responsibility.

"I will be able to do a better job now of the role of the president of Wehco newspapers."