Arkansas Publisher Weekly: August 19, 2021

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UA journalism professor Reed makes ’40 under 40’ list Guest Column: Into the Issues

Arkansas Press Association

Publisher Weekly

By Al Cross

Vol. 16 | No. 33 | Thursday, August 19, 2021 | Serving Press and State Since 1873

Censorship draws resignation from journalism teacher A Bigelow High School journalism teacher and yearbook adviser resigned this month in protest after school administrators who claimed “community backlash” ripped pages out of the school’s yearbooks. Meghan Clarke Walton, a former journalist, was in her second year of teaching at the rural Perry County school. Administrators removed two pages from about 100 yearbooks, she said. The pages featured a timeline of events during the year, highlighting among other things the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, police killings and former President Trump’s claims of a rigged election. Walton said in an interview this week she stood behind the decision of student editors to produce the timeline for the yearbook, and she had no regrets in taking a stand against censorship. “They (administrators) did say the yearbook was the best yearbook to come out of Bigelow, other than those two pages,” she said. “It’s a shame that’s how

it will be remembered. “I don’t know if this is going to haunt me as I go on in my career, but I do believe my students and I did the right thing.” The Student Press Law Center first reported on the school administration’s censorship actions. SPLC condemned the censorship, noting that Arkansas is one of just 14 states with vigorous protections of student media. The Arkansas Press Association was among a coalition of student press advocates that worked to strengthen Arkansas’s Student Publications Act during the 2019 General Assembly.

from her contract. She said she’s been contacted by the ACLU and the Journalism Educators Association but has referred them to affected students. “The ball is kind of in the court for my students regarding what further action they want to take,” she said. “They’re the ones that live in the

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Walton, for her part, washed her hands of the matter after her resignation. She doesn’t live in the school district and has been released

Shreveport newspaper hires former Arkansas journalist

Misty Castile Photo courtesy Shreveport Times

Gannett this month named former Arkansasbased journalist Misty Castile as editor of the Shreveport Times in Shreveport, Louisiana.

the Hot Springs Village Voice before the company sold the weekly newspaper to Jennifer Allen earlier this year. Castile stayed with Gannett and relocated to Shreveport after the sale.

Castile worked for Gannett as editor of

“I’m so happy to have Misty leading The Times’ newsroom,” said Barbara Leader, Gannett’s Louisiana state editor, in an

As managing editor at Hot Springs Village, Castile won a number of APA awards. While in the state, she was also part of a state leadership team directing news coverage in Mountain Home and Fort Smith.

article in The Times. “I’m confident she will continue the great tradition of strong, local news reporting and increase the depth of coverage through investigative and enterprise journalism in both our digital and print products.” Castile studied at both the University of Central Arkansas and at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Before being named managing editor of the Hot Springs Village Voice, she worked for that newspaper as social media correspondent, production manager and interim editor.

Censorship draws resignation from journalism teacher Continued from Page 1

She said no one has apologized to her, because district officials don’t believe they did anything wrong by physically removing pages from the studentproduced yearbook. SPLC submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the school district asking for correspondence related to the “community backlash” cited as a reason for removal of the pages. SPLC reported it received no responsive documents from the district. Walton, a University of Arkansas graduate, worked for the Morning News of Northwest Arkansas and did some writing for the Fayetteville Free Weekly and other publications after earning her degree in 2009. She took some time off from journalism before going into teaching. Meghan Clarke Walton

community and would have to deal with any kind of repercussions.”

Arkansas Publisher Weekly

She said she “got burned a bit” by the incident and isn’t quite ready to head back into a classroom. “I love journalism and I feel like it’s my


calling,” she said. “It was my favorite course to teach, and I was able to open kids’ eyes to the world around them. Bigelow is such a tiny, tiny community, and journalism taught them how to look at the world objectively, which I don’t think they get a lot of time at home.” While at the school, she was the adviser for the launch of the Panther Press newspaper. Students published a printed edition of the Press each month until inperson schooling was sidelined because of the covid-19 epidemic. Walton said she never had any conflicts with administration over content of the printed newspaper, and that the school was supportive of the journalism program. A representative of the school district confirmed that journalism courses continue to be offered at Bigelow for the 2021-22 school year.

August 19, 2021

UA journalism professor Reed makes ’40 under 40’ list Niketa Reed, a journalism and strategic media professor at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville and executive director of Arkansas Soul Media Inc., was named to the 2021 “40 under 40” class by the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. Reed established Arkansas Soul in 2018. The digital media platform is geared toward Black, Indigenous and people of color, to highlight the work of journalists and writers of color in Arkansas, according to the Business

Niketa Reed

Journal’s profile of Reed. She said the site was created as “a place to pitch ideas and catapult careers,” and “the site is a place where you can go and get your portfolio started, and you can be published. You might even get the attention of major news outlets. That’s the dream,” she told the publication. Arkansas Soul gets thousands of visitors each month to its website, Reed, 37, is an Illinois native who attended college at the

University of Memphis and has a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas. She has worked in digital marketing for the Memphis Area Transit Authority, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the National Wildlife Federation. The Northwest Arkansas Business Journal annually publishes its list of up-andcoming business leaders in the northwest Arkansas and Fort Smith areas.

INDUSTRY QUOTE “He who is without a newspaper is cut off from his species.”

—P. T. Barnum

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August 19, 2021

-30Terry Stanfill Terry Gene Stanfill, 67, of Gentry, died Saturday, Aug. 7, at his home. Stanfill was a contributing photographer for the Westside Eagle Observer in Benton County and other newspapers in northwest Arkansas. Stanfill was an avid nature photographer, and the Eagle Observer said he was known for sharing photos of natural scenes in Benton County to encourage preservation of native prairies and wildlife habitat. He was a retired chemist at the SWEPCO Flint Creek electric power plant in Gentry and was a long-time Little League, Babe Ruth and American Legion baseball coach. He was instrumental in the creation and construction of the Eagle Watch Nature Trail in Gentry. His photos were published locally and regionally.

Report makes recommendations for journalists to better connect with conservative readers beliefs and backgrounds when hiring for the newsroom · Focus on story facts, not interpretation · Correct mistakes promptly to demonstrate trustworthiness · Don’t criticize only one side of an issue.”

Journalists can make better connections with politically conservative audiences by reaching out to conservatives within their own communities, according to a research report recently published by Trusting News in partnership with the Center for Media Engagement. The study identified six ways journalists can connect with conservatives and rightleaning audiences. Those are, according to an article released in conjunction with the study: · “Build relationships with people who have conservative and right-leaning viewpoints in your community and listen to them. · Include a variety of voices from people with conservative and right-leaning views in stories. Journalists should be cautious of using “conservative” or other terms as catch-all labels for people who may have very different beliefs. · Consider the diversity of political

The recommendations were made after the researchers partnered with 27 newsrooms across the country to hear from self-identified conservatives. More than 3,400 Americans answered a questionnaire from the researchers. The research found that participants in the study had low ratings for believability of mainstream journalists, but were “significantly more likely” to believe local mainstream journalists than national mainstream journalists. To read the complete report, visit https://

News Release Distribution Service

He is survived by his wife, Margaret “Cris” Stanfill; his mother, Joyce Stanfill of Greenwood; two brothers; two stepchildren; and three grandchildren. Graveside services were held on August 12, at Walnut Grove Cemetery in Boxley Valley near Ponca, AR.

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Using a few tools can enhance social media presence Newspapers can utilize a number of tools to help enhance their presences on social media. A Reynolds Journalism Institute Student Innovation Fellow, Jose Luis Adriano, listed ways for better engagement digitally this week in an article on the school’s website. Adriano encouraged users to check out Creator Studio for Facebook as opposed to Facebook Pages, the platform’s primary mechanism for posting. He said Creator Studio “gives you many more options and greater flexibility. The tool allows community managers to publish, schedule posts and access statistics about the performance of your page.” Using Creator Studio for Facebook makes content “easier to share and allows for multiple users and roles.”

With Instagram, Adriano suggested adding Instagram Stories with links to drive traffic to websites. Instagram accounts with more than 10,000 followers, or any verified account no matter the following, can add links in Stories. Stories can be published to encourage users to read full articles by swiping up. He said that Instagram users who aren’t yet verified should apply for a “verified” badge for the site so that those accounts can become among the first to use future features. Instagram users can request verification under the Settings portion of their accounts. With Twitter, Adriano said he’s

been using Twitter Fleets, which work in a similar fashion as Instagram Stories. He said they’re great for highlighting Tweets, sharing video or previewing a day’s front page.

Guest Column: Into the Issues By Al Cross Editorials are falling from favor at many American newspapers, for various reasons, including a desire not to upset and chase away readers, especially when it comes to our increasingly tribal and polarized politics. Unfortunately, many rural newspapers don’t publish editorials, or even a column by the editor or publisher, which is the most common form of editorial voice in community papers. But one journalism group, the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, was founded to encourage and advance editorial leadership in newspapers, and the only awards it gives are related to editorials. Each year ISWNE has its Golden Quill contest, with the best editorial getting the award of that name, and 12 others honored as the Golden Dozen. The presentation of the awards is always inspiring testimony to the importance of editorial leadership, and this year’s Golden Quill winner was a sterling example. Melissa Hale-Spencer of The Altamont Enterprise in New York won for her editorial that was central to a campaign that ensured fairness for an incapacitated subscriber and preservation of historic structures on the subscriber’s farm at a local scenic spot. Hale-Spencer discovered that a courtappointed lawyer was going to sell the property to a developer. “We believe

Arkansas Publisher Weekly

the price is not right and the assets are being ignored in the name of haste,” she wrote, raising other questions about the procedure that seemed to favor the developer. The editorial stirred interest in preserving the property and prompted the judge in the case to appoint an attorney to look out for the subscriber’s interests, and to pick another buyer, who not only paid more money but agreed to a conservation easement that preserved the centuries-old house and barn. “I feel incredibly lucky to have a newspaper that brought people in our community together to solve a problem,” Hale-Spencer said at the online awards presentation. Pandemic persuasion Noting that two of the Golden Dozen winners wrote about the pandemic, HaleSpencer said, “The pandemic has made clear that accurate information can be a matter of life and death.” She told the editors, “I urge you to stay strong, to believe in the worth of your work.” One winning pandemic editorial was by Mark Ridolfi of The North Scott Press in Eldridge, Iowa. He warned Sept. 2 that inconsistent anti-virus measures by Scott County and the state were putting residents at risk. To those who wanted to let the virus “take its own course” and develop herd immunity, he asked, “Who is it OK to infect?” Fines Massey, editor of the Laclede County Record in Lebanon, Missouri,


wrote Oct. 17 that virus cases were “skyrocketing” because residents weren’t wearing masks and keeping their distance. “We have to stop shrugging this away,” he wrote. “We have to take this more seriously before it becomes seriously too late.” Massey said at the awards presentation that local attitudes are “much worse” now, and his publisher “asked if we were beating a dead horse,” but Massey said, “If we even sway one person, it’s important that we continue.” He kept it up in the July 15 edition, with a commentary that noted a surge in cases and said “It is well past time for this community to get its collective head out of the sand and take a look around at what’s going on.” At this writing, a week later, Laclede County was still part of the biggest regional hotspot. I haven’t seen many editorials about the pandemic in rural community newspapers lately, and I think it’s time for more – and some news stories featuring local health professionals. Rural Americans are among the most hesitant, or even resistant, to vaccination, and they are probably more likely to heed advice from trusted local experts than from public officials or national figures. The pandemic is so politicized and personal, an editorial is unlikely to convince many vaccine skeptics to get a shot, so the better targets are family and friends who are more likely to be Continued on Page 7

August 19, 2021

Guest Column: Into the Issues Continued from Page 6

persuasive. Polling shows that many unvaccinated people say they need to know more about the vaccines, and there’s plenty of authoritative information online to answer all the frequently asked questions about them.

your readers? Two new interactive tools reveal those numbers. One uses data gathered by polling done through Facebook; the other shows the relative interest in vaccination shown by online searches.

The Rural Blog and Kentucky Health News have published a comprehensive question-and-answer story that is being updated as new information becomes available, so feel free to borrow from it.

The Facebook-gathered data are in interactive maps from the University of Washington, showing what counties (and even what Zip codes) are most hesitant to get a shot. The maps reflect answers to this question: “If a vaccine to prevent Covid-19 were offered to you today, would you choose to get vaccinated?” The answers are “Definitely,” “Probably,” “Probably not” and “Definitely not.” People giving one of the last three answers are considered vaccine-hesitant.

For more impact, work up a samplecopy edition that will reach everyone in your home county with authoritative information about the virus and the vaccines. You might even be able to get local and/or state governments to help pay for it, as Becky Barnes of The Cynthiana (Kentucky) Democrat did when her county had the state’s first Covid-19 case. And just how hesitant or resistant are

The maps don’t break down the data by individual answers, but they are interactive, and can be switched to show the percentage of people saying “Probably” and “Probably not.” That

allows simple subtraction to produce the “Definitely not” figure for each area. Another tool, called Google Covid-19 Vaccination Search Insights, uses aggregated, anonymized data from Google searches about vaccination. The weekly data are available by region and by county. The trends reflect relative interest, broken down three ways: overall interest, vaccination intent, and safety and side effects. If you need help covering the pandemic or anything else, just email me at 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 director of the University of Kentucky’s Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.


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Arkansas Publisher Weekly


August 19, 2021

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