The Gazette makes its move

Newspaper gets upgrades, new offices in Landmark Building

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After more than 85 years at its downtown Pine Street office, the Texarkana Gazette has a new home in the historic Landmark Building.

The Gazette's business, circulation, advertising, creative services and editorial departments now occupy the first two floors of the Landmark Building at 101 E. Broad St. in Texarkana, Ark. The newspaper's printing press and distribution center operations will remain about two blocks away at 315 Pine St., giving the Gazette a presence on both sides of State Line Avenue.

For the Texarkana Gazette, the new building offers a more modern, spacious setting with digital upgrades and room to grow in the dynamic, 21st-century news industry.

For the public, reaching the Gazette will still be easy. The Gazette's new main telephone number is (870) 330-7550, and the fax number is (870) 330-7570. The main phone number provides a directory to reach individual staff members and options to reach specific departments.

Last week, staff members packed their belongings and moved down the road to get situated in these new surroundings. The transition is a long time coming, and employees have walked with a little more bounce in their steps this past week.

As the Gazette's general manager, Kirk Blair oversaw the move.

"This is a move that we planned or started looking at over two years ago," Blair said. "We really took our time in choosing the right place, where we wanted to be."

It was important to consider how the move would affect both the community and the newspaper.

"We wanted to make sure that we maintained a presence in Texas and had a presence in Arkansas," Blair said. For news coverage, this has always been true. Now the Gazette has a physical presence in each state. Each night, more than 100 newspaper carriers will still go to the old Gazette building to pick up papers and deliver them to the public.

On the flip side, the Gazette's day-to-day business and editorial operations now call the Landmark Building home. As it was in the previous location, the newsroom is on the second floor, with the business side on the ground floor. Operating hours are the same-8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"The facility is gorgeous. It's a beautiful facility. We've gone through it ourselves and remodeled it to meet our needs and to meet the needs and changes that are going on in the news environment," Blair said. "By that I mean it's allowing us to move into the digital side and be much stronger on the digital side. The print side, we're still what we've always been."

The sports and copy desk departments now have their own modern office areas. The classified department's digital capabilities are increased, too.

"They're able to sell packages that include digital, as well as print," Blair said. "We're really concentrating more on that as we move to this location."

The Gazette enjoyed plenty of foot traffic on Pine Street.

"Every day, we had a large amount of people that came and left this building," Blair said, adding that the foot traffic via North State Line Avenue and Broad Street at the new Gazette home this past week has been incredible. More traffic means more exposure, he said.

Blair praised both Texarkana cities, Gazette employees and contractors for the outstanding job done on this transition. The move was largely completed by Friday. The transition went in phases during the week.

"We will have an opening and a ribbon-cutting for the public to view this beautiful facility that we have," Blair said. That should happen sometime after the Gazette's soft opening.

"I'm really excited about the enthusiasm of having a beautiful place to work for the employees. I know that they're going to do a better job because it's such a marvelous location and a great place to be," Blair said. "I don't think we could've found a better place."

Why move? The old building requires improvements, Blair said, and the owners and Gazette's parent company, WEHCO Media Inc., decided that couldn't be done while employees were working. WEHCO Media will decide what happens next with the building, but the printing plant will remain.

"I know we're always going to have a presence there," he said.

The Hussman family wants to be good stewards for the community and leave it in good condition, said Blair, who said the Landmark is actually older than the Gazette's Pine Street building. Inside and out, though, it looks much newer.

"What we did is we've made this building state-of-the-art," Blair said.

How do Gazette employees – from reporters to classified workers to copy editors – feel about the new home? For people committed to bringing news to the public, this move is cause for enthusiastic celebration.

"I know how the staff feels. The staff's been coming to me, and they're so appreciative. You know these people that we have, they work in the newspaper industry because they love this industry," Blair said. "They don't have a lot of choices, other than move to different towns to work at newspapers, and they choose this as to what they want to do."

Newspapers are vital to the community, he said, because people in town get their local news from the newspaper. Here in Texarkana, the Gazette does the reporting and has the largest news-gathering staff, he said.

"Our employees, their enthusiasm right now is at an all-time high," Blair said. "They're excited about the things they're going to be able to do now in this market. It's just going to be a great experience for us. I'm looking forward to it."

Gazette Editor Les Minor welcomes the change with his news staff enjoying a new home. The move hasn't and won't affect news coverage in any way, he said.

"If anything, we have better tools to work with now and a better environment in which to collaborate," Minor said. "There will be some initial challenges. I'm still figuring out how to use the phone system, for example. But most of these technical issues will work themselves out quickly."

For the news staff, the vast sea change is that the old, open newsroom is no more. With the old floor plan, news-side staff members could all see and communicate with each other across the floor.

"For years, we basically worked in one large news-gathering warehouse," Minor said. "Now, we've moved into an office complex and the old, organic newsroom connections are gone, but staff members will manage through it."

"We're going to have to create pathways to meet and work on things together," Minor said, noting newsroom employees have been really upbeat about the move.

In the 35 years he's been at the Gazette, news gathering has been situated in the second floor. "Now, we're on the second floor of the Landmark Building, so we didn't really change a lot there," Minor said – except maybe the elevator ride.

For anyone who visited the Gazette in recent times and took the elevator up to the newsroom, the experience may have felt like an adventure. Sometimes, people came off the elevator looking rather glad to find more solid footing, the editor quipped.

"The elevator's a lot less interesting here than it was over at our old place," Minor said.

Signage marks both Gazette entrances at the Landmark. The public can enter the Gazette via Broad Street – the main entrance – or North State Line Avenue.

Blair anticipates good things ahead for the Gazette family.

"I think in terms of news gathering, I think in terms of advertising I think our readers are going to see an improved product and improved results simply because of the move and the technology and what's going on in the marketplace and the enthusiasm of the group of people that we have," Blair said.

Visit the Gazette online at texarkanagazette.com.

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