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Save the Date:

FOIA seminar set for September 19 at APA headquarters

Guest Column:

Effective reporting of rural health epidemics By Al Cross

A rk a nsa s



Publisher Weekly


Serving Press and State Since 1873

Vol. 14 | No. 33 | Thursday, August 15, 2019

New Ashdown publisher sticks to facts and figures to grow readership

Mica Wilhite has advanced training in numbers and more than just a little on-thejob experience in words, which makes for a good combination for the new publisher of the Little River News in Ashdown.

Wilhite, who has a graduate degree in statistics, points right to the facts and figures when asked how the lone newspaper in Little River County can grow revenue and readership.

Wilhite is also publisher of the Jefferson Jimplecute in Jefferson, Texas, where she was general manager before being promoted earlier this year. Over the last year, she said subscription rates have increased by 42 percent. She envisions the same kind of growth for the Little River News. “Of all the things we’ve done, what moves our numbers the most is when we put content in the newspaper that readers want to read, articles about what they want to know,” she said. “The content should be specific to them and focused on Mica Wilhite

them. It’s very important to their lives.” Both the Jefferson and Ashdown newspapers are owned by Bob Palmer, who recently reacquired the Little River News from Quinton and Jamie Bagley. Palmer installed Wilhite as the publisher in Ashdown in mid-July. In addition to serving as publisher of both newspapers, the statistician also has her own consulting business. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun to see the similar challenges of both newspapers and to be learning about the unique personality of each town and each county,” she said. “They have their own personalities and they’re both very enjoyable.” Jefferson, in northeast Texas, is about Continued on Page 2

Collector needs assistance identifying portrait subjects among them are several that appear to be drawings of Fisher’s colleagues or members of the Arkansas media. Fisher, an influential political cartoonist, died in 2003. The Encyclopedia of Arkansas said his work “helped define Arkansas politics for a generation.”

A Little Rock man who recently acquired a collection of caricatures drawn by the late George Fisher has asked for help identifying the subjects of the portraits. John Binyon of Little Rock told the Arkansas Press Association he purchased a large collection of Fisher drawings at an estate sale of the possessions of Gene Herrington. Herrington worked at the Arkansas Democrat from 1942 to 1971 and later worked for Arkansas Power and Light, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and North Little Rock Times. Binyon purchased about 120 prints and

A few of George Fisher’s caricatures. (More photos on page 4.)

In an email, Binyon said he is “a fan of Arkansas history and ephemera in general. I have no commercial interest in these images and do not plan to sell them. My hope is to identify the subjects and frame/display the images. If there is any interest in conserving

Continued on Page 4

New Ashdown publisher sticks to facts and figures to grow readership

Continued from Page 1

75 miles from Ashdown. Both newspapers date to the 19th Century. The Jimplecute was founded in 1848 and is the fifth oldest newspaper in Texas. It’s said that the newspaper’s name is an acronym for “Join Industry, Manufacturing, Planting, Labor, Energy, Capital (in) Unity Together Everlasting.” The Little River News is the oldest business in Little River County. It was established in the nearby town of Richmond in 1888 and it relocated to Ashdown in 1898. While Wilhite is eager to replicate some of the successes she’s seen in Texas, she’s approaching her role in Ashdown cautiously so as not to force unnecessary changes. “I would say we are in a mode of trying to make sure that we do not fix anything that is not broken,” she said. However, she added that there are two adjustments to be made in Ashdown that “have gone very well in terms of financials” in Jefferson.

Mica Wilhite talks about newspapers with elementary school children in Jefferson, Texas.

One of those changes at the Little River News is to require prepayment for all advertising. She described advertisers in Ashdown as “accommodating and cooperative” about the move. Another transition will be to encourage Little River News subscribers to sign up for the digital replica e-edition. Wilhite said the ease of access to a full-color, weekly e-edition, even when subscribers are out of town or on vacation, has made it popular among Little River News readers.

without it,” she said.

Wilhite has received positive feedback from both subscribers and advertisers since she took over at the newspaper, she added.

Now, she does a little bit of everything for her two newspapers, including writing, ad sales and page design.

“Everyone has been so encouraging in Little River County, communicating that they really want the Little River News and that they can’t imagine the county or town being

Wilhite got her start in the newspaper business a few years ago when she began writing movie reviews for the Jimplecute. Before going fulltime for that newspaper, she redesigned its website. The move from statistician to publisher was challenging but rewarding. “A lot of us probably have careers where we do have job security and income stability,” Wilhite quipped. “For me, being a statistician, that was the case.”

Wilhite is a native of Perryville, and she attended high school in Mount Pleasant, Texas. She has a bachelor’s degree in math and a master’s degree in statistics from the University of Arkansas and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.

The Sentinel-Record names digital strategy manager Beth Reed, a reporter for The Sentinel-Record in Hot Springs, has been named the newspaper’s first-ever digital strategy manager. Reed assumed the newly-created Beth Reed role late last month and will oversee the newspaper’s digital presence. In an article announcing her promotion, Reed stated that “I look forward to this new role as we start engaging our audiences Arkansas Publisher Weekly

with our various digital products. Print is still our priority, but by engaging more readers online, we continue to solidify that The Sentinel-Record is the No. 1 news source for Hot Springs and Garland County.” Reed is a Hot Springs native and 2009 graduate of Hot Springs Lakeside High School. She has a photojournalism degree from Arkansas State University.

Reed started at The Sentinel-Record in January 2013 and has covered tourism and education and written humaninterest articles, including features for the newspaper’s annual Oaklawn series, according to the announcement. She 2

has also served as interim marketing coordinator for National Park Medical Center. The Sentinel-Record General Manager Harry Porter stressed that the newspaper remains primarily a print product, but that Reed will help reach the growing number of people who consume news in other ways. Editor Mark Gregory added in the article that: “We will also be leveraging our digital platforms to provide the latest sports, information, videos and podcasts to our readers. We want our digital presence to enhance our print subscribers’ experience.” August 15, 2019


Through cooperation with our state’s press, we’re committed to telling the amazing story of The Natural State. To learn more about how we’re promoting tourism that’s energizing Arkansas’s economy, contact Leah DiPietro at 501-682-7606 or email leah.dipietro@arkansas.gov. Arkansas.com

Collector needs assistance identifying portrait subjects Continued from Page 1

the images with signatures, I would also be interested in donating them to the appropriate venue.” About 20 of the 120 images Binyon purchased appear to be signed by the subject, he said. And of those, most appear to be journalists. He has identified a few of the subjects, but would like help identifying the others. For some he’s already identified, he’s curious about the significance of the image and the subject drawn by Fisher. To contact Binyon, email johnbinyon@ gmail.com.

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Community-based editorial board to be established in El Dorado The El Dorado News-Times, which previously has not published editorials, will begin producing an editorial each Sunday and is asking readers to join its editorial board. Current members of the board include General Manager Rita Haldeman and Managing Editor Caleb Slinkard. The News-Times in late July asked members of the community to be a part of the board. Community members must submit an email asking why they want to join the board, what they believe the purpose is of newspapers in 2019 and what they view as Union County’s opportunities and challenges. The newspaper said its editorials would 4

“range from critical pieces focused on the behavior of elected officials to celebratory pieces that highlight great things going on in the community. The goal is to inform, entertain and provide a reasoned, analytical point of view on local news and events.” The newspaper said its board would be a combination of newspaper staff and community members who “are well-connected to the community and present unique perspectives or experiences.” Editorials will reflect a consensus of the board. News-Times readers interested in serving on the board were asked to send an email to Slinkard at cslinkard@eldoradonews. com, with the subject line, “Editorial Board.” August 15, 2019

Texarkana Gazette Save the Date: FOIA seminar set for redesigns website September 19 at APA headquarters The Texarkana Gazette rolled out a redesigned website last week featuring key improvements based on viewer feedback, according to an article in the Gazette last week. The article noted that readers should immediately notice faster load times and a “responsive layout that improves both the appearance and functionality of the site regardless of the device used to access it.” The article stated that the mobile version of the website is significantly improved over the previous design. According to Texarkana Gazette Editor Les Minor, the redesigned site better highlights the breaking news and important stories of the day, while improving navigation to the e-edition, puzzles and other sections of the newspaper. In addition, the website will contain larger photos and texts, additional video content and easier ways for readers to share articles on social media. Visit the redesigned TexarkanaGazette.com



The Arkansas Press Association will host a special seminar next month highlighting the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.

will offer practical tips and suggestions on access to public records and public meetings under FOIA.

The two-hour FOIA seminar will be Following Tull’s presentation, a panel of Thursday, Sept. 19, at APA headquarters, journalists will discuss how they use FOIA for investigative reporting and for 411 S. Victory St., in Little Rock. Seating holding public officials is limited to the first 35 people, s o accountable. The panel attendees are encouraged to will include Chris Wessel, register now. Registration cost is $35 for APA members and editor of the associate members and Jonesboro Sun; $45 for non-members, Sarah Perry, including lunch. To reporter for the Arkansas register, call Terri Cobb Benton Courier at (501) 374-1500 and this or email info@ year’s winner arkansaspress.org. of the APA’s I.F. Stone Award The seminar kicks off for investigative at 10:45 a.m. with a journalism, and presentation by John Debra HaleTull of the Quattlebaum, Shelton, an awardGrooms & Tull law firm in Little winning reporter formerly Rock. Tull, a two-time winner of with the Arkansas the APA’s Freedom of Information Democrat-Gazette. Award, is an expert on Arkansas FOIA and

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August 15, 2019

Guest Column: Into the issues

Effective reporting of rural health epidemics By Al Cross

Rural communities have been disproportionately affected by the opioid epidemic, but rural newspapers have been disproportionately quiet about it. They seem to cover it as a criminal-justice problem, when it is primarily a health problem. Smart law enforcers and first responders will tell you that, but many if not most rural papers seem reluctant to cover it that way – to dig into the reasons for addiction, the struggles to overcome it, the search for treatment and the stories of success. Part of this, I know from experience, is the natural reluctance of community journalists to report facts that reflect poorly on their communities. In many places, they probably think there’s already enough bad news. Another big factor is the stigma that still surrounds people with drug problems. That is more prevalent in rural areas, and it keeps people from seeking help – and clings to those who do, putting them at risk for relapse. The role of stigma was well-researched by Oak Ridge Associated Universities, and The Rural Blog reported on it at https://bit.ly/2MhNYlq. The folks at Oak Ridge said local news media can counteract stigma with reporting. To help rural journalists cover substance abuse, behavioral health and recovery, they and the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues (which publishes The Rural Blog) are planning a one-day workshop in mid-November. Watch for details on it soon. Meanwhile, start reporting. Get local data. Ask your coroner each month for death certificates, and for advice on what families might be willing to talk about the struggles of addiction that ended in death. Talk to people in the treatment community, and then to people with substance-abuse disorder. See how the problem developed in your area, by using the pill-distribution database that The Washington Post and the Charleston Gazette-Mail uncovered. Aaron Nelson of The Paintsville (Ky.) Herald did, and gave his readers the names of the stores that sold the most pills. The Rural Blog took note at bit.ly/2MjX4Os. Arkansas Publisher Weekly

The opioid epidemic has had a disproportionate effect on poor areas, but prosperous farm counties are part of it, too. The Farm Bureau and the Cooperative Extension Service are active on this front; we had a blog item about their program in Ohio at bit.ly/30RIMc2. Farmers have been struggling for years with financial instability, loneliness, lack of insurance or access to mental-health care, and the pressure to not quit what may have been a way of life for generations. Now they have to deal with a trade war and unfavorable weather, and are five times more likely to commit suicide than other Americans. The federal government is funneling more money to help them. Read about it at bit. ly/2GuQjpk. Suicide and drugs go hand in hand. In rural areas, jail suicides are increasing, and the trend is linked to drug withdrawal and mental Illness, says The Crime Report, a publication of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice in the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York, a good source for cutting-edge information on those topics. Read more at bit.ly/2GvQvF1. Suicide is another touchy subject for community journalists, but it’s time to stop being timid about it. Did you know rural residents are more likely than those in large cities to think about, plan or attempt suicide? They are, and The Rural Blog took note at bit.ly/2yhmcgy. Here some other topics we’ve had on the blog lately that you can localize: ·A U.S. Senate report revealed nearly 400 poor-performing nursing homes whose problems were not made clear by a government website. Local papers picked up on it, and we did at bit.ly/2SOCqra. ·Many rural hospitals are in trouble, but some have found ways to overcome adversity, survive and thrive. “The secret sauce is always ... strong, collaborative leadership,” National Rural Health Association CEO Alan Morgan told U.S. News and World Report. This is just one 6

of many hospital stories on The Rural Blog; read it at bit.ly/2Y8DUlH. ·Rural electric cooperatives are overly reliant on coal, the Nebraska-based Center for Rural Affairs and two other nonprofits charged. We contacted the coops’ national trade group, which said they are moving to “cleaner energy sources.” What’s your co-op doing? Start reporting with our blog item at bit.ly/2ZcJNuV. ·Electronic cigarettes are an epidemic among young people, but many school districts are lax about it. Not in Fairbury, Nebraska, which requires any student in grades 7-12 to be subject to random nicotine testing if they participate in extracurricular activities. We took note at bit.ly/2GwGHKO. What is your school district doing about “vaping?” (By the way, it’s not really vapor, as the tobacco companies say; it’s an aerosol, and it has a lot of nasty stuff.) Community newspapers increasingly charge for obituaries, an unfortunate result of digital media’s erosion of their advertising base. But the news columns of the best papers still include news obits about people who made their mark on the community or region. And sometimes a paper will double down and run a long tribute to a truly unique individual. The Valley News of Lebanon, N.H., and White River Junction, Vt., did that with the moving, funny and insightful eulogy for a well-known dairy farmer and former state legislator, David Ainsworth. We picked it up at bit.ly/2YhoW8k. Valley News Editor John Gregg sent us that story. If you do or see stories that should be on The Rural Blog, email them to me at al.cross@uky.edu. Al Cross edited and managed rural newspapers before covering politics for the Louisville Courier Journal and serving as president of the Society of Professional Journalists. He is a journalism professor at the University of Kentucky and director of its Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which publishes The Rural Blog at http://irjci.blogspot.com. August 15, 2019

Profile for Arkansas Press Association

Arkansas Publisher Weekly: August 15, 2019  

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

Arkansas Publisher Weekly: August 15, 2019  

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