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Arkadelphia Dispatch applies for APA membership Guest Column: Bold strategies needed to save local journalism By Pam Lowe

Arkansas Press Association

Publisher Weekly Vol. 15 | No. 3 | Thursday, January 16, 2020 | Serving Press and State Since 1873

The Osceola Times celebrates its 150th anniversary

history of The Osceola Times written by Brand.

In a Mississippi County community where countless other commercial enterprises have come and gone, Osceola’s oldest business celebrates its sesquicentennial year with the same tried-and-true business model that’s kept it strong since 1870.

The first editor and publisher of the Times, Leon Roussan, was also Osceola’s first elected mayor. According to Michael Dougan, author of a definitive history of Arkansas’s The Osceola Times, a 150-year-old newspapers, Roussan’s motto weekly newspaper, has served seven was: “Pledged to no party’s generations of residents of southern arbitrary sway, we follow Truth Mississippi County. Its editor and where’er she leads the way.” general manager, Sandra Brand, said its longevity is directly related to An 1873 edition of The Osceola Times. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Brand) Roussan was president of the Arkansas Press Association in its commitment to providing consistent 1893. local news and information to its of need and moments of glory. No wire. readers. Roussan, a native of Ste. Genevieve, No national news. All local.” Missouri, was a lieutenant in the “Times are changing and technology is Confederate Army. He moved to Osceola The all-local focus of the Times has been sweeping the world, but our hometown the same year he started the newspaper its benchmark for decades. Even at its newspaper continues to be embraced,” with a local attorney and the county’s Brand said. “We have made a commitment inception, the impetus for the newspaper circuit clerk as business partners. to bring our readers the truth in local was to fill a void for local legal notices. At its politics, celebrate the feats of their children founding in 1870, the closest newspapers Roussan in 1901 built a downtown and honor the lives of their grandparents. for official legal or business notices were building that would serve as the Times’s We promise to be there during their time in Helena and Little Rock, according to a office for more than a century. The Continued on Page 2

Submit entries now for annual APA advertising contest With the start of the new year, Arkansas Press Association member newspaper advertising staffs are asked to reflect on their best work of 2019 and submit those clips for the APA’s annual Better Newspaper Advertising Contest.

Association. The judges will review the submissions in February and winners will be announced at the APA’s annual advertising conference on March 13 at the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute on Petit Jean Mountain near Morrilton.

The deadline for entries is Jan. 31, so please gather and submit entries as soon as possible.

To enter, visit www.newspapercontest. com/arkansas. A complete set of rules and instructions for entering are included on that site.

The winning entries will be determined by members of the Kansas Press

As with other years, the 2020 Better

Newspaper ad contest includes several categories and separate divisions for weekly and daily newspapers. Categories range from best single ads to best online ads. Special sections have a separate category, as well as ads that incorporate the use of humor. APA members with questions about the contest or the online submission process should contact Terri Cobb at (501) 3741500 or terri@arkansaspress.org.


The Osceola Times celebrates its 150th anniversary Continued from Page 1

oldest existing building in Osceola, now vacant, is a two-story brick structure that included an apartment for Roussan and his wife, Adah. It was Adah Roussan who would operate the newspaper upon her

Times Publishing Company, with Sam Hodges Sr. as editor and publisher, took over the Times after that. Dougan said Hodges’s son, Sam Hodges Jr., described his father as a poor businessman and the “anthesis of Scrooge.” Hodges Sr. had “serious inhibitions about ever sending anyone a bill” and would give away newspapers Front of The Osceola Times office building which is on the unless the buyer actually insisted National Register of Historic Places. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Brand) on paying. Hodges Jr. took over the Times from his father, then later sold it and acquired what was then the Benton Courier, which he converted to daily publication. Hodges Jr. was also an APA president.

Leon Roussan

Adah Roussan

husband’s death in 1906. According to Dougan, Adah Roussan purchased one of Arkansas’s very first typesetting machines, a Junior Mergenthaler, because “we couldn’t think of going back to hand composition.” Adah Roussan was known for her passionate advocacy of prohibition and of levees to protect Osceola from Mississippi River floodwaters. She testified at a Congressional hearing on both matters. She described Osceola as being “whiskey soaked all the time and water soaked part of the time,” Brand said. She sold the newspaper in 1919 and retired to Hot Springs.

After the Hodges family, the newspaper was owned by Phil Mullen and some national media chains before Missouribased Rust Communications purchased the Times in 1994. The Times building, which once housed a press and also served as a meeting place for civic groups, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. The newspaper left the building in 2018. “A weekly newspaper is the voice of the community and the conscious of its people,” Brand said in an article about the newspaper’s history. “For 150 years, Times editors have literally played a vital role in making and recording history. If walls could talk, this building would come alive with the dreams of the Delta people.”

Over the years, the newspaper has tried to keep up with technological changes and advancements, Brand said, noting that just this week the Times intends to launch a new, interactive website. The newspaper’s staff also is busy updating readers through Facebook and Twitter. “The Osceola Times is attempting to keep up with the changing world,” Brand said. “ ... But no matter what form we use, we must stay true to our mission in order to keep the trust of the community.” She added in an editorial celebrating the 150th anniversary: “Many people find their ‘news’ on the web these days. Yet everyone knows you cannot trust the Internet. Anyone with a phone can claim to be a reporter, with no education, no standards, often no morals. Hence fake news. Your hometown newspaper remains the “watchdog” for a free society. We check our facts before they are printed and you can count on us to shoot it straight.”

Wally Hall receives prestigious national writer’s award Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Sports Editor Wally Hall this week received the 2020 Bert McGrane Award, the highest honor presented by the Football Writers Association of America. Hall, who has been a columnist for the newspaper for 40 consecutive years, was presented the award in New Orleans on Monday at the FWAA’s annual awards breakfast. According to FWAA officials, the Bert McGrane Award is a “lifetime achievement award” presented in recognition of an individual’s contributions to the association and to college football. The names of McGrane Award recipients are displayed at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta.

Arkansas Publisher Weekly

A recent Democrat-Gazette article quoted FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson as saying Hall is an “iconic figure in college football writers’ circles” who is passionate about college sports. “Recognizing him with the McGrane Award is really a no-brainer. He has been very supportive of the FWAA. He’s fought for his newspaper and for writers everywhere as far as coverage and access.” Other Arkansans who previously earned the McGrane Award were Orville Henry and Charlie Fiss. Hall is a 2017 inductee into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.

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Wally Hall

January 16, 2020


Arkadelphia Dispatch applies for APA membership

—30­­— Phyllis Dillaha Brandon

The Arkadelphia Dispatch, a weekly newspaper in Arkadelphia, has applied for membership to the Arkansas Press Association. The APA Constitution and Bylaws require three notifications of the application to APA membership. This is the third and final notification. The Dispatch is owned by John Robert Schirmer, who is also a member of the APA board. The newspaper was established in late 2018 following the closure of the Siftings Herald in Arkadelphia. The newspaper has published weekly since then and is now eligible for full APA membership. In addition to the Dispatch, Schirmer owns the Nashville News Leader, the Glenwood Herald and the Murfreesboro Diamond. Any APA member who objects to the Dispatch’s membership in APA may provide a written letter of objection to APA Executive Director Ashley Wimberley, 411 S. Victory St., Little Rock AR 72201 or email info@arkansaspress.org.

Democratic Committee and the Pulaski County Election Commission. She served as president of the Little Rock PTA Council, president of Trinity Cathedral Churchwomen and president of Leawood Heights Garden Club. She was High Profile editor at the Democrat-Gazette for 23 years before serving for two years as editor-in-chief of Arkansas Life magazine. Democrat-Gazette Publisher Walter Hussman was quoted in the newspaper as saying Brandon had a passion for journalism and was the ideal person to be the High Profile editor.

Phyllis Dillaha Brandon, founding editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s High Profile section, died Saturday, Jan. 11. She was 84. Brandon was a member of the University of Arkansas Journalism Hall of Fame and was recognized by Watershed for her philanthropic journalism efforts. She was Women and Children First’s Arkansas Woman of the Year in 2007. A Little Rock native, she was associate editor of the Tiger newspaper at Little Rock Central High School and associate editor of the Arkansas Traveler newspaper at the University of Arkansas. She was a member of the Pulaski County

“She not only created a section highly popular with readers, but she was an outstanding goodwill ambassador for the newspaper. She also did a great deal to promote philanthropy in Little Rock and Arkansas through the recognition she gave many well-deserving Arkansans,” Hussman said. She is survived by two sons, James Alexander Brandon of Fort Washington, Maryland, and Phillip Brandon of Little Rock; two grandchildren; and one greatgrandchild. Funeral services were Thursday at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church. The family asks that St. Margaret’s be considered for memorials.

Ashley County Ledger staff are to now work remotely Effective this month, the staff of the Ashley County Ledger will work outside of the Ledger’s office in downtown Hamburg, Publisher Barney White announced. Subscribers may continue to drop off articles, photos or subscription renewals through the mail slot near the front door of the Ledger’s office at 107 N. Main St. However, the newspaper’s staff will not maintain office hours at that location.

The change will make staff members increasingly available to attend local functions as they move out of the office and into the community, the newspaper announced.

customers, but we hope to be even more accessible to our neighbors and friends that have patronized us their entire lives,” White said in a newspaper report about the change.

“We know this might cause a temporary inconvenience to some of our readers and

The Ledger’s telephone number remains (870) 853-2424. The new fax number is (870) 364-7064. The newspaper’s mailing address is P.O. Box 471, Hamburg AR 71646.

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Send your staffing changes to info@arkansaspress.org to be updated online and included in the Arkansas Publisher Weekly.

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January 16, 2020


MARK YOUR CALENDAR March 12 & 13, 2020 APA Advertising Conference Winthrop Rockefeller Institute Petit Jean Mountain


Guest Column: Bold strategies needed to save local journalism By Pam Lowe There’s a new term in American vernacular that represents areas with limited access to credible news. The term is “news desert”. The prospect of living in a news desert is a scary thought and could have far-reaching effects. I dare say it could change the landscape of our republic if the trend continues to leave large areas without trustworthy news coverage. According to data from the Arkansas Press Association, 39 member newspapers have closed, merged, or altered the way they deliver the news since 2010. It is crucial that rural communities maintain their newspapers; their watchdog, to monitor local government and report community news. In a recently released study by PEN America, a nonprofit organization committed to free press, they revealed that over the past 15 years, local newspapers across the U.S. have lost more than $35 billion in advertising revenue while at least 2,000 news outlets have closed. One cause of the outbreak of news deserts across the country and Canada, as well, has been the decline in recent years of print advertising sales. The latest Arkansas city reported to have lost its watchdog is Ashdown in Little River County. The Little River News, which published its last edition on Nov. 21, has been covering the news in Little River County for 121 years. Publisher and coowner Mica Wilhite said in an interview with the Texarkana Gazette that while subscriptions were strong, it had become harder to generate revenue. She added that they could have continued to publish the newspaper, but needed a stronger alignment between revenue and cost. One danger we are facing is that in the absence of credible news that newspapers provide, people will read or listen to anyone or anything that steps in to fill the void. The number one contender to replace responsible news is social media. While the public may want news they can rely on, in its absence they are likely to turn to social media and potentially fake news. Five minutes on Facebook or Twitter will reveal that alternative facts are easily spread with no proof or fact checking. The Pew Research Center reports that currently one in five adults say they often get news via social media. Arkansas Publisher Weekly

Another issue is that some community newspapers are being consumed by larger media outlets which leave a gaping hole in the services provided by a local newspaper. While it may be one option to continue providing news to a city or town; to a community’s readers, the option of merging two or three newspapers is simply considered better than nothing. A community wants and needs their newspaper to reflect it. That’s something a large media group cannot do. Media conglomerates do not have the heart and feel for a community that a local newspaper has for its residents. Local newspapers drive the community to participate in elections, hold elected officials accountable and tell the local stories of the community.

page with 872 followers, a little more than 53% of the population, for community news.

Here is a list of Arkansas newspapers that are employing strategies to keep credible news in their communities:

Pew Research Center reported that in 2018 digital advertising grew to a $109 billion business and was estimated to make up 49 percent of all advertising revenue. That is an increase from $88 billion in 2017 and 43 percent of all advertising revenue in 2017. With the use of cell phones, mobile advertising revenue is rapidly growing with an increase from $57 billion in 2017 to $71 billion in 2018. Desktop advertising revenue also saw an increase in 2018; however, mobile advertising revenue comprised almost 65 percent or two-thirds of all digital advertising revenue.

Hope-Prescott News, a weekly newspaper, launched in late 2018 to cover Hempstead and Nevada counties. SWArk.today, a digital newspaper launched in late 2018 by former employees of the Hope Star and Daily Siftings Herald (Arkadelphia) Arkadelphia Dispatch, a weekly newspaper launched in late 2018 Arkansas Weekly (Batesville) converted to an online-only publication, www. WhiteRiverNow.com, in January 2019. Greenwood Democrat, a weekly newspaper, converted to a monthly magazine called Greenwood Life, in January 2019. Arkansas Times, a weekly newspaper, reverted to being a monthly magazine of the same name, January 2019 (Arkansas Times was previously a monthly magazine in the 1970s and 1980s, converting to a weekly newspaper after the closure of the Arkansas Gazette in 1991). WPC Journal, a biweekly free newspaper, was launched in March 2019 to cover Western Poinsett County following the closure of The Modern News (Harrisburg) in 2018. In The Loop Stuttgart, an online-only newspaper, was launched in late 2019 by former Stuttgart Daily Leader staffers to cover northern Arkansas County. The White River Journal (Des Arc), while no longer publishing, maintains a Facebook 5

As we enter a new decade, newspaper survival will hinge on the publications that think ingeniously into the future. For most Americans, our lives virtually revolve around our cell phones. The small computer in the palm of our hands is running our lives from schedules to entertainment to news. It is rapidly becoming the growing go-to news source. The former kingpins of advertising; television, print newspaper and radio will undoubtedly bow to the cell phone in the next decade in advertising sales. With more citizens using their phones and devices, digital advertising is increasing steadily each year.

To move into the future successfully, and in order for communities to continue to have sustainable local journalism, it makes sense that publishers will need to have a bold digital strategy. As in any business, newspapers have to go where the consumers and advertising opportunities are located. Creating a digital newspaper and readership will also be cost effective as it will eliminate the cost of ink, paper, mailing and transportation expenses. For readers, a click will deliver the news efficiently. It’s imperative for our democratic system that we slow the progress of news deserts, save journalism and protect our society. The new future for credible news is in sight and it’s in the digital world. Like the cartoon character, Underdog, digital newspapers may save the day. Pam Lowe is managing editor of the Clay County Courier in Corning. Reach her at pam@claycountyliving.com January 16, 2020

Profile for Arkansas Press Association

Arkansas Publisher Weekly: January 16, 2020  

The Arkansas Publisher Weekly is the only direct source for late-breaking news regarding Arkansas' newspapers and related industries. Publis...

Arkansas Publisher Weekly: January 16, 2020  

The Arkansas Publisher Weekly is the only direct source for late-breaking news regarding Arkansas' newspapers and related industries. Publis...