Arkansas Times, the Little Rock weekly newspaper that was born as an alternative monthly and spawned several successful publications since it was founded by a group led by Publisher Alan Leveritt in 1974, is returning to a monthly format after more than a quarter-century, Editor Lindsey Millar announced Tuesday.
Millar called plans to switch to a glossy monthly in February 2019 "a return to the publication's roots." The paper became a weekly in 1992 "to try to fill the sizable gap" left after the daily Arkansas Gazette was subsumed by its bitter rival, the Arkansas Democrat.
Reborn as the Democrat-Gazette, the paper remains the state's dominant daily, but Gazette mainstays like Ernest Dumas and Max Brantley moved over to The Times after the Gazette closed, and still write for it.
"When the Times went weekly in 1992, the internet didn't exist," Leveritt said in a news release. "At the time, the increase in frequency enabled us to better report news as well as cover upcoming cultural events. Since then, arktimes.com has become where readers go to for immediacy."
For that reason, the Times also plans a relaunch of the website, which runs on a metered paywall allowing readers to see a limited number of articles without subscribing. In October, the site had 1,600 subscribers paying $9.99 per month or $110 a year. The printed paper is distributed free in central Arkansas, and the new monthly edition will be available free at some 500 locations around the Little Rock region and Hot Springs.
"Look for a dynamic new arktimes.com," the news release said, promising more daily reporting and analysis on news, politics, culture and food to augment the work of Brantley on the popular Arkansas Blog.
The monthly magazine, which will make its debut Jan. 31, will be an oversized glossy "full of the best writing and photography" in Arkansas, the Times said.
"We see an opportunity to fill a gap that's existed since the Arkansas Times went weekly — the absence of a general interest magazine about Arkansas that's smart, lively, opinionated and willing to take risks," Leveritt said. "There are a lot of magazines in the market, but they approach our state with a soft focus and are unwilling to risk a dime to take a stand on important issues that affect the health and prosperity of Arkansas."
The new publication is likely to be a far cry from the publication that began its life as the Union Station Times, headquartered near the Little Rock train station, nearly 45 years ago. Over the years, the Times' parent company, Arkansas Times Limited Partnership, has also produced El Latino, a Spanish-language weekly, family monthly Savvy Kids and an outdoors title, Arkansas Wild. Arkansas Business was born in 1984 as a sister publication to Arkansas Times, but the two companies eventually split.
"Having a sense of humor will be a chief value of the magazine," Millar said. "We'll be pretty, but with a bit of grit. News and politics will remain our primary focus online, but in print those will get equal footing with culture, food, travel and world-class feature writing."
The Times will continue to publish a weekly edition through the end of the year.