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The 12-year war.

The 12-Year War

Gazette And Democrat Continue War Of Attrition As Both Lose Millions: Is The End In Sight?

It has been a dozen years since the first shots were fired in the Little Rock newspaper war.

The Arkansas Gazette is still in battle, despite what Carrick Patterson said eight years ago.

And Walter Hussman Jr. still hasn't turned a profit at the Arkansas Democrat, as hard as he has tried.

At the time of the television report, the Gazette held a commanding lead over the Democrat in daily circulation -- 129,975 to 75,685.

The Gazette's Sunday circulation was 154,043 with the Democrat at 139,782.

Today, the newspapers are running neck and neck.

The Gazette's daily circulation has risen slightly to 130,885. The Democrat's circulation has risen dramatically to 129,106.

Sunday circulation at the Gazette stands at 222,072. The Democrat has taken the Sunday lead with 236,093 subscribers.

Underestimating Walter

Hugh Patterson, former owner and publisher of the Gazette and Carrick's father, never expected such a fight from Hussman when the Democrat became a morning newspaper in 1979.

A few years later, though, the Pattersons charged Hussman was using his other media holdings to subsidize Democrat losses. They sued Hussman in 1984.

The Pattersons lost the lawsuit and subsequently sold their newspaper to the Gannett Co. in 1986 for $51 million.

"We weren't able to compete with his undercutting the market," Hugh Patterson said of Hussman at the time.

Since then, Gannett has lost money each year in Little Rock. Some estimate the losses last year may have reached $20 million. The company is on its third editor and third publisher.

Through all the changes, Hussman has made it clear he's ready to dig as deeply into his pockets as Gannett is willing to dig into its own.

Although Hussman represents the home team, he's not necessarily the hometown favorite.

Some believe Democrat circulation has increased simply because readers are fed up with USA Today-type changes at the Gazette.

Newcomer Maurice L. "Moe" Hickey, who became publisher at the Gazette a little more than two months ago, may realize that traditions are golden -- and can be turned into money -- in Little Rock.

Under his leadership, the newspaper has restored its Sunday editorial section, "Forum," to its original size.

Under Publisher Craig Moon, "Forum" became a tabloid section hidden among the classified ads.

Color has been brought back to the front of the "Metro/State" and "Business" sections, although "Metro/State" has been reduced in size.

Hickey, who has been seen having lunch and dinner with Hussman, obviously does not underestimate the Democrat.

But neither did Craig Moon.

Moon was quoted in a May 1990 Business Week article as saying, "With Hussman's tenacity, this will never be a one-newspaper market."

"Actually, with Hussman's tenacity, it just may be," responded reporter Jim Bartimo, in a twist on Moon's words.

What's the status of the newspaper war at the 12-year mark?

PHOTO : WHO'S IN THE NEWSROOM?: The Arkansas Gazette's content has changed drastically since the Gannett Co. bought the Little Rock newspaper in late 1986. So have the faces in the newsroom at Third and Louisiana streets downtown.
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Title Annotation:includes related article on newspaper competition; competition between Arkansas Gazette and Arkansas Democrat
Author:Rengers, Carrie
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Aug 5, 1991
Previous Article:Corporate Motorcars.
Next Article:The Little Rock newspaper war: a status report from those who follow it.

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