Publisher Chris Zimmerman is announcing a merger between the Columbus Advocate and the Baxter Springs News beginning next week.

The new combined paper will publish on Wednesdays and be called the Cherokee County News-Advocate and will be will have a wider distribution throughout the county.

This business move is part of a new initiative by the News-Advocate’s parent company American Consolidated Media to bring the best in new digital technologies and news techniques to small markets like Cherokee County.

“It’s actually quite exciting,” News-Advocate Managing Editor Patrick Richardson said. “What we’re actually doing is returning to daily publication. While our print product will only hit the street once a week, we will be publishing on our website daily.”

Additionally the News-Advocate will have a new, website called www.sekvoice.com where breaking news will be published each day. Subscribers and non-subscribers alike will have access to  stories, photos, videos and more. Going forward, readers will also have the opportunity to post their own stories and photos directly onto the site. In the coming weeks, our staff will be contacting businesses and organizations in the community to be a part of this interactive part of our website.

Zimmerman said she was “excited by the changes,” and expected this to be a “net positive,” for the community and the newspaper.

The rack price of the News-Advocate will be dropping as well, going from the current $1 per copy to 50 cents.

Staff Writer Stefanie Cope is likewise looking forward to the changes.

“It opens up readership we couldn’t otherwise reach,” she said, noting the web, as always, gives the News-Advocate national reach. “People in other states can read us now.”

Richardson said the changes also give News-Advocate staff an opportunity to do more reporting.

“We’ve always excelled at in-depth reporting,” he said. “But the time constraints we’ve operated under have sometimes prevented us from following a story as closely as we would have liked. This frees us up to spend more time in the community getting to know our readers and to dig into the stories which are important to them.”

The News-Advocate will be maintaining offices in both Columbus and Baxter Springs. The first weekly edition of the paper will be Wednesday.