ABOUT THE COMPANY
The Pine Bluff Commercial is the dominant source of news for Southeast Arkansas, and has been since it was founded more than 130 years ago by Major Charles Gordon Newman, a feisty military veteran and former actor.
Owned by GateHouse Media since March 2015, the Commercial publishes an award-winning six-day-a-week printed edition, a once-a-week-tabular street edition known as PBC Today and a seven-day-a-week online edition of its news product.
The company also publishes in print the weekly White Hall Progress and monthly life-style magazine, SEA Life, which circulates throughout eight counties.
It is located in Pine Bluff, Ark., a city of about 50,000 people, situated along the Arkansas River, about 45 minutes south of Little Rock.
GateHouse Media also publishes the Las Vegas Review-Journal and newspapers in 32 states, including more than a dozen in Central Arkansas.
When The Pine Bluff Commercial rolled off its handcranked Washington press April 18, 1881, it was greeted with unusual enthusiasm.
Editors across the state hailed the new paper — the Little Rock Democrat calling it “as big as a horse blanket and printed in clear, bold type” and the weekly Beebe Watchman pronouncing it “as bright and pretty as a pair of new garters” — because it signaled the return to Arkansas journalism, after a brief hiatus, of Major Charles Gordon Newman, who had already established himself as one of the most provocative personalities in the most boisterous era of Arkansas newspapering.
For the next 30 years, Major Newman would be the soul and spirit of The Commercial, shepherding it from a primitive, one-man weekly not much mechanically advanced beyond Gutenberg to the thriving 20th Century daily newspaper business complex that it had become by the time of his death in 1911.
He announced in Column One of that first issue what he thought a newspaper should be, and should try to do, and the ideals that he enumerated there at the start remain for the most part the basis of what The Commercial considers its role and mission to be.
“With this, we begin the publication of the Pine Bluff Commercial as a business enterprise and to accomplish what good we can for a state and people whom we have so long and faithfully served by the potent agency of the press.
… The editor believes in progress. He has no taste for personal journalism, but does believe in a manly expression of opinion and he promises that with fairness and courtesy toward all, this paper shall labor for the common weal.”
The paper stayed in the Newman family for more than a century. During that time, a series of editorials published in the paper on race relations in the South won a 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing — the only existing newspaper in Arkansas to have received such an honor.
In 1986, The Pine Bluff Commercial was purchased by the Donrey Media Group, which later became the Stephens Media Group. In 2010 the Commercial, in keeping with its history of innovation and adaption to new technologies, launched a full online news product behind a subscription-based pay wall. In March 2015, GateHouse Media purchased the Stephens Media Group.
[Adapted from a history of the paper written by former Commercial reporter Bob Lancaster.]