The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s digital plans have been grist for the media rumor mill lately, but it’s not true that Little Rock’s monopoly daily paper plans to shut down print operations next year, Publisher Walter Hussman says.
“No, but we are examining more digital offerings and promotions,” Hussman told Whispers. The longtime publisher, celebrated for protecting his print product for years by refusing to put much of its news out for free on the internet, didn’t go into specifics about the digital initiatives, but he said they were “probably the source” of the recent talk.
The paper has been squeezed by the same downward spiral in print advertising that dailies have faced nationwide for years, but from here it seemed unlikely that it would call it quits in print. Hussman’s market penetration in central and northwest Arkansas remains high, and the paper’s print heritage — if you follow the Gazette-side lineage — dates back to 1819, when William E. Woodruff first put ink to paper at Arkansas Post with a secondhand Ramage press.
Hussman combined the Gazette and the Reconstruction-vintage Arkansas Democrat into the hybrid Democrat-Gazette 26 years ago this week after buying the Gazette’s assets from the Gannett Co. on Oct. 18, 1991. Old Gazette partisans may recoil, but the Democrat-Gazette can lay claim to being America’s “oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi.”
If you take Hussman at his word, it’s likely to become even older.