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APA ad contest entry deadline one week away APA Legislative Report

ARKANSAS

Ark a nsa s

PRESS

Publisher Weekly

ASSOCIATION

Serving Press and State Since 1873

Vol. 14 | No. 4 | Thursday, January 24, 2019

Throughout career, Albarado fights for transparency One of Arkansas’s strongest advocates for open government points to an experience as a rookie reporter in Louisiana for helping him understand the importance of transparency. More than 45 years ago, Sonny Albarado’s distaste for a governing body’s method of conducting business fostered his long-time fight for open meetings and open government. Albarado, the projects editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is a veteran member of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act Coalition and one of the leading experts on the law.

Albarado recalls one of his first assignments covering the Terrebonne Parish Police Jury for the Houma Daily Courier. The parish police jury (similar to a county quorum court) sat around a table, some members with their backs to the audience. There was no advanced notice about the agenda, and the public didn’t have copies of the documents being discussed. “If they passed around documents, you had to wait until after the meeting to find out what they were talking about,” Albarado said. “There were physical and psychological barriers where they were letting the public know ‘We’re doing business, and you don’t need to know what we’re doing,’ and I’ve never gotten over that.” Albarado has worked as a reporter or editor at multiple newspapers in Louisiana, Tennessee and Arkansas since 1972, and is a former national president of the Society of Professional Journalists. He

said that his nearly 47 years of experience has proven out his belief that unchecked governments tend toward secrecy. Thus, he is diligent about strong open meetings and open government laws. “Officials will do things in secret if they possibly can,” he said. “I know there are good people in government, but at the same time, I know if you have the opportunity to do something in secret, it will happen. My experience teaches me that opinion is not undeserved.” Arkansas’s FOI law is among the strongest in the nation, thanks in part to the efforts of Albarado and others on the FOIA Coalition who strive to protect the law from major changes during each legislative session. Albarado’s advocacy also extends to the Democrat-Gazette newsroom, where reporters use the state’s FOIA as a tool to root out corruption and shine light on actions of government officials. Continued on Page 2

Reminder: FOIA Coalition meets January 29th Friday, Jan. 25, is the deadline to register for the next meeting of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act Coalition.

The coalition meets Tuesday, Jan. 29 at noon at the Darragh Center of the Central Arkansas Library System main library in downtown Little Rock. Representatives of the Arkansas Municipal League are expected to attend to discuss the League’s support of several proposals that could impact, or even weaken, the state’s open meetings and open records law. One

bill would exempt certain documents, or “working papers” of government attorneys from disclosure during active litigation. Another possible proposal calls for all existing exemptions to the FOIA to be specifically codified within the Act. Municipal League Executive Director Mark Hayes has been invited to discuss the proposals with the coalition. The Arkansas FOIA Coalition is made up of journalists, publishers, attorneys,

educators and others. Its mission is to protect the state’s FOIA, one of the strongest in the United States. The Darragh Center is located within the library at 100 Rock St. in downtown Little Rock. A boxed lunch will be offered to attendees, and RSVP is required by Friday to Ashley Wimberley, Arkansas Press Association executive director. Email her at ashley@ arkansaspress.org.


APA ad contest entry deadline one week away

Enter now for the chance to earn recognition as among the best in Arkansas in the Arkansas Press Association’s Better Newspaper Advertising Contest. The annual contest honors the best ads in daily and weekly newspapers in a variety of categories. The deadline for entering is Thursday, Jan. 31, so please submit your entries as soon as possible. Winners will be announced at the APA’s annual advertising conference to be held at the Embassy Suites in Little Rock on March 7-8.

To enter, and for more information on rules and instructions for entering, visit www.newspapercontest.com/ arkansas. The contest will award the best advertising in several categories, with separate divisions for weekly and daily newspapers. Winning entries will be judged by members of the North Carolina Press Association. Categories range from best single ad to best online ad. There is a separate category for special sections and one for best use of humor in an advertisement. For more information or for questions about the contest or the online submission process, contact Terri Cobb at (501) 374-1500 or email terri@arkansaspress.org.

Albarado fights for transparency Continued from Page 1

While the FOIA is a law intended to benefit all Arkansans, Albarado noted its relevance to journalists.

Albarado’s native Thibodaux, Louisiana, presented him with an honorary doctorate in 2014.

“It’s important for journalists to be able to have access to documents and have access to data and to help explain to the layman what a particular piece of legislation will do and how it will affect them personally,” he said. “We can take information and help digest it and analyze it. Journalists still have an important role to play to interpret what’s going on because of their training and background.”

Over his four-decade career, he’s seen many technological changes in the industry, but Albarado believes journalists have been and will continue to be adaptable to changes in the industry landscape.

Albarado got his start in journalism as editor of the student newspaper at Nicholls State University in Louisiana, though he earned a degree in English and planned to become an English professor, he said. While in graduate school at Mississippi State University in 1972, he recognized a “glut of English majors on the market at that time” and accepted a job offer at the Houma paper. After a brief stint there, he helped start a trade publication for the coin-operated amusement industry. He got back into the newspaper business two years later working for a weekly in Dawsonville, Louisiana. He spent time at The Advocate in Baton Rouge and the Commercial Appeal in Memphis before moving to Arkansas and the DemocratGazette in 2007. Nicholls State, in

“Essentially, the mode of transmission of our words and ideas have changed significantly, but what we do remains solidly based on evidence and the ability to interpret the world for the rest of us,” he said. Another significant change he’s recognized over the last several years is the growing negative perception of journalism. He partly blames cable news networks for skewing the line between fact and opinion and fostering belief that some journalism is “fake news.” He said the DemocratGazette tries to make clear to readers the difference between opinion and facts, and to ensure its news reports are fact-driven. “On a personal level, I believe in what I’m doing,” he said. “I’ve been doing it for 40-something years, and it’s an important role that I and an organization play in helping our society govern itself. Despite all the negative criticism and attacks, I think I’m on the side of righteousness.”

APA calls for members to voice opposition to HB1041 The House City, County and Local Affairs Committee this week voted to support HB1041, a measure that would eliminate the competitive bidding requirement for many municipalities for purchases or projects less than $50,000.

This dramatically increases the public notice threshold for cities of the first class (cities of 2,500 or more) from the current $20,000 to $50,000. This means that purchases under $50,000 could be made without public oversight and without an opportunity for local businesses to fairly compete. This bill, if approved, allows public officials to hand pick vendors without regard to price or other competition. As a result, it would likely drive up taxpayer cost since the city’s favored vendors would face no pricing pressure. More importantly, under HB1041, all this could take place without Arkansas Publisher Weekly

public knowledge, since municipalities would no longer be required to publish public notices in newspapers to solicit bids for purchases under the $50,000 threshold. If the bill passes the House, it will be assigned to the Senate City, County and Local Affairs Committee. Please contact your local senators and representatives and ask them to vote against HB1041. The Arkansas General Assembly’s website contains a list of legislators, their committee assignments and contact information for members of the House and Senate. For a complete list of legislators with contact information, visit http://www.arkleg.state. ar.us/assembly/2019/2019R/Pages/LegislatorSearchResults. aspx?member=&committee=All&chamber= 2

January 24, 2019


Newspapers in Camden, Magnolia to publish weekly The publisher of newspapers in Camden and Magnolia announced last week those papers will move to weekly publication effective on Feb. 20. In a letter to subscribers of the Camden News and Magnolia’s Banner-News, publisher Walter E. Hussman Jr. said: “We realize the future of newspapers and journalism is digital,” and that the newspaper company had just introduced a “new and improved” website. The newspapers will now publish print editions on Wednesday mornings each week, with digital replica front pages available to subscribers six days a week. The Camden paper characterized the change as a “step up from” the existing weekday online updating. News and sports will be continuously updated and “time saved by the news staff from the physical production of the daily paper will allow more time spent on reporting for your Wednesday edition and each day with our digital editions,” according to the Camden News. The Banner-News started in 1928 and the Camden News began in 1929. Hussman noted in the letter that the change is intended to offset a 75 percent decline in U.S. newspaper revenues since 2006.

Industry Quote of the Week “It’s amazing that the amount of news that happens in the world every day always just exactly fits the newspaper.” -Jerry Seinfeld Arkansas Publisher Weekly

Arkansas Life to continue after successful subscriber drive After a successful effort to increase paid subscriber count, the monthly lifestyle magazine Arkansas Life will continue publication, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which publishes the magazine.

With the new subscribers, paid circulation for the magazine is now at about 4,500, the newspaper reported. Total distribution is around 24,000 copies.

The Democrat-Gazette reported that 1,033 subscribers had purchased yearly subscriptions over the last two weeks to save the decade-old magazine from closure. In the report, Lynn Hamilton, president of the newspaper, said Arkansas Life will publish as a hybrid print and digital magazine. Arkansas Life will be published in print quarterly. Monthly issues will be available online. The first quarterly print edition will be produced in April. Other print editions are scheduled for July, October and January 2020. 3

January 24, 2019


92nd Arkansas General Assembly

Legislative Report

APA is monitoring the following filed bills of interest to our industry and the public: Bill No. / Author

Short Description

APA Position

Current Status

HB 1003 Rep. Gazaway

An act to add antibullying measures at schools, to allow school boards to meet in executive sessions for bullying investigations

Opposes

Awaits initial hearing in House Education Committee (Rep. Gazaway has indicated he is re-filing the bill and withdrawing the executive session provision)

HB1015 Rep. Mayberry

Requires journalism to be offered as an elective course in public high schools

Supports

Awaits initial hearing in House Education Committee

HB 1041 Reps. Ladyman, Eads

Raises the threshold for municipalities to competitively bid projects from $20,000 to $50,000, thus abolishing public notice requirements for municipal expenses between $20,000 and $50,000

Opposes

Passed the House City, County and Local Affairs Committee; awaiting action by the full House

HB 1163 Rep. Capp

Allows municipalities to maintain three copies of revisions or codifications of ordinances available to the public in the clerk’s office rather than publish notice of the revisions or codification.

Opposes

Awaits initial hearing in House City, County and Local Affairs Committee

HB 1178 Rep. Wardlaw

Changes state procurement law for a variety of purposes, but adds a specific Freedom of Information Act exemption for requests for information from potential bidders

Opposes

Awaits initial hearing in House State Agencies Committee; scheduled before the FOIA task force

HB 1231 Rep. Lowery

Establishes rights for student journalists at Arkansas higher education institutions

Neutral

Awaits initial hearing in House Education Committee

SB 3 Sen. Garner

Requires reporting from physicians and healthcare facilities requiring detailed information about abortion procedure complications and exempts the required report from the Freedom of Information Act.

Neutral

Awaits initial hearing in Senate Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee

SB 118 Sen. Kim Hammer

Requires educational institutions to provide students and faculty broad latitude to engage in free speech and prohibits individuals from suppressing free speech

Neutral

Awaits initial hearing in Senate Education Committee

Arkansas Publisher Weekly

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January 24, 2019


Guest Column: Good news unites communities By Peter Wagner

Our regional newspaper, The N’West Iowa REVIEW, is delivered to over 6,000 families in four counties every Saturday morning. We selected Saturday when my wife and I founded the paper in 1972. Saturday delivery sets apart from the 15 other weekly newspapers and six shoppers that come out midweek. Saturday delivery also allows us to include a huge sports section featuring photos and stories covering all the Friday night games played at the 17 high schools in our distribution area. I never have to wait long to learn what our subscriber base is thinking about that week’s edition. I hear both good and bad comments the next morning at church. And what I’ve learned is my readers, before all else, want complete coverage of all the local news and sports updates. But more than that, they want to read good news. They want to read and file away in their memory, the human-interest stories we’re able to share about individuals who live and make a difference in our area. Years ago, not long after we established

Arkansas Publisher Weekly

The REVIEW, our hometown’s middle school was totally destroyed in a massive fire. Our local competitor, the Sibley Gazette-Tribune, had already printed for the week so we had the first shot at the story. Additionally, our son Jeff, who was already taking most of our photos, was attending high school just blocks away, and was able skip out to capture photos of every stage of the fire. We were able to print multiple pages of interesting stories and exciting pictures. The same month we also printed another front-page story about a local gas station owner, Rod Galbraith, who discovered a tiny abandoned dog huddled at the station’s door one morning. Rod welcomed the dog into the station and gave her a home and a makeshift bed placed safely under his front counter. He named the little puppy Welfare for obvious reasons. Later, Rod discovered the dog was pregnant. Within weeks he had four cute little mongrel puppies also depending on him for food and care. Eventually it came time to find each puppy a home. But even then, the story concluded, Galbraith made sure those

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taking the pups were committed to giving them love and proper care. But here is what amazes me about these two stories. I’ve heard many more comments about the Welfare story than I ever have about our multi-page, breaking coverage of the fire. Readers love stories about good things that happen. We experienced the same reaction to a recent story we published about a newborn baby left one winter night, years ago, on the front steps of a pastor‘s home in a nearby town. We never published that story. We would have if we’d known about it. But we did publish the “rest of the story” late last month when the now fullgrown man and caring pastor were able to reunite. It was the only story that week that anyone wanted to talk to me about at church that Sunday. It was the kind of story that unites a community and in this case a region. Peter W. Wagner is founder and publisher of the award winning N’West Iowa REVIEW and 13 additional publications. Wagner can be contacted by emailing pww@iowainformation.com

January 24, 2019

Profile for Arkansas Press Association

Arkansas Publisher Weekly: January 24, 2019  

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

Arkansas Publisher Weekly: January 24, 2019  

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