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Newspaper carrier dies in flash flooding in Fort Smith Popular podcast targeted for plagiarizing Arkansas reporter’s work


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Publisher Weekly


Vol. 14 | No. 35 | Thursday, August 29, 2019

Serving Press and State Since 1873

Saline Courier reporter’s work with sources pays off When asked what made the difference in her award-winning investigative coverage for the Saline Courier, Sarah Perry says, more or less, to consider the source. The leads and interviews from nearly three dozen sources helped shape Perry’s four-article investigation into the Bryant mayor last year. For that series, the Saline Courier reporter won this year’s prestigious I.F. Stone Award presented by the Arkansas Press Association for investigative coverage. Perry’s articles illustrated dysfunction and discord at Bryant City Hall. After the articles were published, the longtime mayor lost re-election to a political neophyte who had raised 10 times less money than the incumbent.

The series relied on complaints, grievances and financial information unearthed through Freedom of Information Act requests. Perry said she would not have been aware about those specific records without the trust and assistance of the sources she had cultivated over her six years at the Courier.

successful covering her beat because she knows the right mix of positive and negative reporting will reap long-term benefits. Continued on Page 2

“I had been working with these people for so long, it made me feel good that I had built up this relationship with employees and the City Council and they trusted me with the information that could have put their jobs on the line,” Perry said. Perry is the senior reporter at the Bentonbased newspaper and she has reported on Bryant city government for the six years she’s been at the Courier. She said she’s

Sarah Perry

State Archives calls on Arkansas newspapers to go to microfilm Countless reporters know the feeling of searching for an older article on the internet and ending up with a “Page Not Found” error. That’s becoming more and more common, said Terra Titsworth with the Arkansas State Archives, which is why the Archives are on a mission to preserve Arkansas’s newspapers in microfilm form.

The State Archives, located in Little Rock, currently houses microfilmed copies of nearly 100 Arkansas periodicals. The organization’s goal is to maintain all APA member newspapers on microfilm, but the Archives can only do that if APA members provide copies of their print products. “If they will send it to us, we will microfilm it,” Titsworth said. “It has to be published in Arkansas and pertain to Arkansas, and

newspaper organization’s membership about the Archives’ microfilm efforts and to grow participation. APA members who did not attend the convention are encouraged to call the Archives at (501) 682-6900 or visit Archives.Arkansas.gov for more information.

if there’s an Arkansas relevance in it, then we will microfilm it if we have it.” Titsworth said the Archives’ microfilm collection is open to the public six days a week. In addition to newspapers, other documents on microfilm include government and military records. The Archives took time to talk one-on-one with APA members during the recent APA convention in Hot Springs, informing the

Titsworth said that archiving of newspapers and other important documents is a widespread problem nationally. “Over time, digital records become somewhat impossible to retrieve,” she said. “I still feel that microfilm is the best way to preserve newspapers. It only requires magnification and light. Other mediums change relatively quickly and it becomes very difficult or expensive or impossible to retrieve those things.”

Saline Courier reporter’s work with sources pays off Continued from Page 1

“To build those connections, it’s a giveand-take,” she said. “You don’t need to just know them as a source, but as real people. Good stories do come around, so do good stories for people, then if something (negative) does come up, they’ll be more willing to work with you.” Empathy goes a long way in getting reporting results, too, she added. “You need to be able to ask those hard questions, but you still need to be kind, genuine and caring about it because everyone is human,” Perry said. Perry’s editor, Josh Briggs, said her award is a testament to her ability to balance compassion and commitment to public service. “ … I have never worked with a more compassionate reporter who loves her job as much as Sarah,” Briggs said. “Her skills during this particular investigation were taken to heart and she knew, though the mayor was a friend, she had a job to do in being the ‘watch dog’ for the community.

She stayed on top of every aspect of the case, using more sources than necessary to be sure fairness was given. Her work deserved to be recognized among the best in the business, and I believe being from a small daily speaks volumes to the work she put in while being recognized by her peers.” The APA’s I.F. Stone Award is presented yearly to the Arkansas reporter whose investigative work is considered the best of the best by an independent panel of out-of-state judges. The award is named for a 20th Century political journalist known for his doggedness in scouring public records. In spite of the accolades, Perry said she wouldn’t consider herself an investigative reporter. She got into journalism because she likes writing features, and she prefers the day-to-day coverage and what she called “feel-good” coverage of her beat. The University of Arkansas graduate is a native of southern Louisiana. She pursued

a journalism degree because she had a fondness for writing. Once she got into the news program at UA and started working for the school newspaper, The Traveler, she decided that reporting was right for her. The Courier gig is her first job out of college. Perry used a phrase she borrowed from a colleague to explain why she believed her investigative series had more to do with the help of her sources than anything else: “Your job is always about your reputation and your connections.” And it’s those connections she’s built that make her want to continue working in Saline County for the foreseeable future. “I just love the community here, I like how it’s close enough to Little Rock but big enough that there’s a lot of stuff to do here and still get that small-town community feel.” Perry and her husband, Richard, live in Haskell. They have a 3-year-old son, Elijah.

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August 29, 2019

Newspaper carrier dies in flash flooding in Fort Smith By Jayden Watson Fisher, Fort Smith Times Record. Reprinted with permission.

Committed. Loving. Servant-hearted. Kind. Gentle. Good with children. Best friend. These are the words used to describe Debra Stevens after her unexpected death last weekend.

to release the 911 call in the coming days. “She was a hardworking woman who was very dedicated to her job; she would deliver in the snow and ice when almost no one else would,” said longtime friend Latonya Stolz. “This goes to show just how dedicated to her job and to pleasing others she was.” Fort Smith received more than 4 inches of rain Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. Jason Parmenter, Times Record assistant distribution manager, said in a public post on Facebook that she was one of the company’s carriers. He said she had a “big heart ... (and) will be missed.” Newspaper management is not authorized to provide additional comment on the situation. Friends and family shared memories and condolences on social media, including At-large City Director Neal Martin who noted their relationship in a post Saturday.

Debra Stevens

Stevens, known as Debbie to most, died Saturday morning delivering newspapers. She was 47. Her car got washed off the road by flash flood waters near the 5800 block of Kinkead Avenue, and first responders were unable to rescue her.

Martin said Stevens and her mother, Nancy, have been longtime family friends and served as preschool ministry teachers at East Side Baptist Church. Receiving the news of Stevens’ death was “tough to hear,” he said, especially considering the relationship his family had with hers.

Debbie” and “Miss Nancy,” often asking to see the two. “It’s hard to tell your kids stuff like that,” Martin said. “You try to protect your kids as much as possible, but there are times when you have to give them bad news.” Stevens even worked on Martin’s campaign for city director two years ago. He said she held signs at East Side every day for about a month, passed out fliers and talked to other residents. Martin was shocked someone would give that kind of time to help someone she knew “get some position.” Stolz shared similar sentiments about her 40-year friendship with Stevens, reflecting on their church trips as kids and more recently having dinner together to “laugh and talk for hours.” If Stolz could tell Stevens anything, she would thank her for their four-decade friendship, for being a confidant and loving Stolz’s kids like her own. “(She) was a model of being a servant, doing what God called you to do, and serving your community and friends,” Martin said. “If people were willing to give of themselves like she did, I think our city, our state and our country would be a lot better.”

The Fort Smith Police Department plans

Stevens taught Martin’s youngest daughters in the church class, his older children spent time with her when she’d take the kids out for activities, and his son mowed Stevens’ yard. Martin and his wife, Christina, also fostered children who developed relationships with “Miss

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A fund has been set up to assist the family with costs for the service and burial. Any remaining funds will be used for East Side’s preschool program. Donations will be accepted at the church’s website or in person at 2710 Massard Road.

2019 ArkLaMiss Circulation & Marketing Conference, Ameristar Casino & Hotel, Vicksburg, MS

August 29, 2019


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Popular podcast targeted for plagiarizing Arkansas reporter’s work A popular national podcast highlighting true crime has come under close scrutiny for its reporting largely because a former Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter accused the podcasts hosts of plagiarism.

According to an article in the DemocratGazette last week, former reporter Cathy Frye said the hosts of the Crime Junkie podcast plagiarized her reporting on the 2002 murder of Kacie Woody of Greenbrier, for which Frye won the prestigious Livingston Prize for Young Journalists in 2004. The report said that Fry took to the podcast’s Facebook page to call into question the hosts’ comments. Frye said her copyrighted series on the murders was never cited as a source and the hosts quoted parts of her articles “almost verbatim.”

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that Frye’s Facebook post had a mostly positive response, and as a result the podcast had issued a statement to Variety magazine saying that five episodes of Crime Junkie would be removed from its website. The episode in question related to Frye’s work was one of those episodes. On August 16, Crime Junkie creator and co-host Ashley Flowers said, in part: “We recently made the decision to pull down several episodes from our main feed when their source material could no longer be found or properly cited. Since then, we’ve worked to put additional controls in place to address any gaps moving forward.”

the episode itself. On Thursday, August 29, a cease-and-desist letter was sent to Flowers. The letter asks that the podcast’s producers either edit the episode to “fully and unequivocally credit [the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s] Copyright and Cathy Frye’s reporting at the beginning of the podcast”, or to take it down entirely. The podcasters have until September 12, 2019, to respond.

On August 19 the Kacie Woody episode had been returned to the Crime Junkie lineup, with episode notes linking to credits, including one for Frye and the DemocratGazette, but with no attribution within

Newspaper Academy offers recorded webinar sessions

Arkansas Press Association members who may have missed previous webinar sessions on everything from newspaper design to advertising sales to revenue generation may still purchase the training sessions online through the Newspaper Academy’s video library.

Mark Your Calendar

The video library may be accessed at newspaperacademy.com/video-training The recorded sessions give newspaper professionals the opportunity to access training seminars online at a time that is convenient to them.

The APA will be closed on Sept. 2 for Labor Day!

Among the webinars available for purchase are sessions on increasing annual sales goals, building an advertising base, sales basics, reporting basics, production basics and introduction to InDesign and other Adobe products. Arkansas Publisher Weekly


August 29, 2019

Guest Column:

Creating believable advertising By John Foust

“Willing suspension of disbelief” is a cornerstone of entertainment. The term was coined in 1817 by poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, author of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” It refers to the fact that an audience must temporarily suspend rational judgment in order to enjoy a story or presentation. The person on the screen is an actor, not the actual person he or she is portraying. People who wear capes can’t really fly. The woman in a magic act isn’t really cut in half. Suspension of disbelief is a good thing. We do it with ease. It makes mystery novels interesting. It makes ghost stories around the campfire more fun. And it keeps us on the edge of our seats when we go to action movies. All of this is fine in the entertainment business, but things are different in the real world. Consider this profession of advertising. Suspension of disbelief is not necessary. It’s an ad creator’s job to encourage willing belief. Here are three points to keep in mind: 1. Tell the truth. It all starts here. Once someone catches a person in a lie, it’s hard to believe anything else that person says.

Arkansas Publisher Weekly

The same goes for advertising. Stretch the truth and pay the price in the marketplace.

marketing campaigns, because they have actually used the advertised product.

Of course, there are laws protecting consumers from bait-and-switch promotions and other deceptive schemes. But what about exaggerations and unsubstantiated claims? Although most of them are not technically illegal, these seemingly innocent copy techniques can be just as misleading.

3. Focus on benefits. Every advertiser wants people to believe their products and services are the right choices. The fastest way to do that is to talk in terms of benefits.

Consumers are confused when competing advertisers each claim to be the “best.” And they are suspicious when every sale is promoted as “the biggest sale in our history.” 2. Use evidence. Just like attorneys are well armed with facts to back up their positions in the courtroom, advertisers should support their claims with evidence. Saying, “This new widget will save money” is not nearly as effective as saying, “The XYZ Board’s tests show this new widget can save up to 10 percent on your energy costs.” A testimonial is another form of evidence. To be believable, testimonials should feature real customers, not professional actors. Real customers add authenticity to


Benefits generate belief. Think of the things you have bought for yourself. Every purchase was based on the benefits those things would provide. You chose Residence A over Residence B, because it offered better features, location and price. Car A was a better fit for you than Car B, so you chose Car A. Willing suspension of disbelief and willing belief are both based on trust. When we go to a movie, we say, “I trust you to entertain me.” And when we encounter the right kind of advertising, we say, “I trust the information in this ad to be reliable.” John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. Email for information: john@johnfoust.com (c) Copyright 2019 by John Foust. All rights reserved.

August 29, 2019

Profile for Arkansas Press Association

Arkansas Publisher Weekly: August 29, 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 29, 2019  

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