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Little River News suspends publication indefinitely Guest Column:

Are community newspapers akin to a circus? By Peter Wagner

Ar k ansas

ARKANSAS

Publisher Weekly

PRESS ASSOCIATION

Vol. 14 | No. 48 | Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Serving Press and State Since 1873

APA members express their thoughts on thankfulness

Editor’s Note: For the second straight year, the Arkansas Press Association asked colleagues in the newspaper industry from around the state to share what they are thankful for with Arkansas Publisher Weekly readers. Our thanks go out to Jennifer Allen, Kim Christ, Bridget Clay, Tracey Finch, Rusty Fraser, Shannon Hahn, Emily Johnson and Shantelle Redden for sharing their thoughts this year. Happy Thanksgiving!

their part to support our democracy and strengthen our industry. I’m also thankful for the local merchants who continue to recognize the benefit of advertising in community newspapers. And I appreciate my counterparts on the Arkansas Press Association board of directors, and the APA staff, for the work they do on behalf of all of Arkansas’s newspapers. Jennifer Allen (center) with staff from the Hot Springs Village Voice

completed the newspaper’s Pages from the Past project, celebrating 200 years since the first Arkansas Gazette was published. I’m thankful that project is over, and that the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is heading forth into a new era of digital publishing with the support and guidance of our visionary publisher. It feels good to be part of a team that is actively working to forge a path to the future of journalism. Here’s to the next 200.

Jennifer Allen, Gannett/East Arkansas group ublisher and APA board member:

Of course, I’m especially thankful for my family, my friends and all my co-workers. I’m thankful for the memories I made with loved ones who have passed away, and this time of year I cherish the moments I had with those family members and friends. I think about my grandmother’s cooking and really just miss them, but I am reminded still about how lucky we are to have the family and friends who are with us today. I oversee three newspapers, and I’m very thankful for the hard-working and dedicated employees who we have at all of those newspapers. Of course, in this industry, we spend so much time with wonderful co-workers they become just like family. I’m grateful for the communities that support our newspapers, and the advertisers and subscribers that sustain us. With every subscription and with every ad purchased, our communities do

Kim Christ with husband Mark

Kim Christ, deputy managing editor, Arkansas Democrat Gazette: Firstly, I’m thankful for 30 wonderful years with my husband and the sweet and sassy family we’ve created and for all our extended family and friends. That said, it’s also great to be living in such an exciting time in human history. I’m also grateful to be part of a strong 110-member news team fighting the good fight to keep community journalism alive in turbulent times for traditional media. As I write this, my colleagues and I just

Bridget Clay with husband Kevin

Bridget Clay, APA director of member services: This has been a difficult week for my family since we lost my Dad last week to cancer, but it has made me really think about all the things I have to be thankful for in my life. I’m thankful for my wonderful family, my husband, sons, grandson, brothers and sister and my Mom. I’m thankful for my health and the health of my family. My sons live overseas, so I am especially thankful for modern technology Continued on Page 2


APA members express their thoughts on thankfulness Continued from Page 1

that allows us to see each other and talk anytime we want. I’m thankful for having the cutest and sweetest grandson ever (seriously!). I’m thankful for caring friends who are always ready to lend a hand. I’m thankful for having plenty of food, clean water and clean air.

Whatever you eat for your traditional feast or wherever you celebrate, be sure to hug those around you and let them know how much you appreciate them and their efforts.

I’m thankful for a God who loves and cares for us even when we are not deserving (he is also the provider of everything on my list). These are just a few of the many things I am thankful for in my life, but they are at the very top of my list.

I’m thankful that our paper is a true “mom and pop paper,” locally owned and not a slave to a budget or a corporate home office. I’m thankful for the associations I have had with newspaper folks through the years, and all I have learned from them. I’m thankful that my health is still good enough to work a full shift in the business, or at least almost a full shift.

Rusty Fraser with wife Neal

Rusty Fraser, Arkansas Newspaper Foundation board president: Tracey Finch

Tracey Finch, Dumas Clarion publisher:

Thanksgiving...a time for family and friends and lots of food. What is your traditional family Thanksgiving dinner? When I was growing up, we would go to my grandparents’ house and eat the usual turkey and dressing with all the trimmings. Sometimes at my Granny and Jody’s house, we would have some venison or duck because my granddad and uncle were mighty hunters and wanted to show off the fact that they could bring home the bacon, so to speak. I didn’t much care for it. I never had the experience of watching grandmother cook the turkey and dressing because we lived in another city. We would get to Granny’s in time to eat and then we had to rush to Big Mama’s, my other grandmother, and eat. As a kid I just thought it was magic, I guess because when I arrived, it was ready to eat. Now I wish I had watched the whole process and taken more interest in the planning and preparing of the meal. But now as the grandmother, I am just so excited and thankful when my three grandsons come to my house for Thanksgiving and the first thing they want to do is give me a big hug. Arkansas Publisher Weekly

“After receiving a request for a list of things I’m thankful for in the newspaper business, my first thought was “not much” given the number of problems facing newspapers these days. But, after giving the subject a little thought, quite a few things came to mind: I’m thankful that my newspaper, the Stone County Leader, is still profitable, and I haven’t had to lay anyone off like many of our peers. I’m thankful that our circulation has stopped declining and has leveled off at around 4,000, which is not bad in a town with a population of 2,750. I’m thankful that most of our circulation decline has been among out-of-state subscribers, which has helped our bottom line because we paid the highest rate to mail those. I’m thankful for our newspaper staff, the best I’ve ever worked with in my newspaper career. I’m thankful for our town, Mountain View. While business isn’t exactly booming, our town in a great place to live with lots of neat things to do. I’m thankful that the people in our community still appreciate a good local newspaper, and tell us so. 2

Shannon Hahn with daughter Catherine

Shannon Hahn, general manager, The Madison County Record: I think it goes without saying that I’m thankful for my family and my friends, but let’s go ahead and get that in print while we can. This year, more often than not though, I’ve found myself truly genuinely thankful for our body of work, our words, and our ability to tell stories. Now more than ever, our work and our stories are under attack and we each have to make the choice daily to persevere and to press on. We live in an ever-changing world with clear and often drastic division and the stories we are writing will serve as record of our history long after the soundbites and cable news clips stop airing. What a gift to have a hand in that. What a gift it is to have an active role in the accountability of our leaders and in the betterment and future of our communities and our world. It’s a heavy load at times, but I’m thankful to have a part in it. It’s worth it. Happy Thanksgiving! Continued on Page 3

November 27, 2019


APA members express their thoughts on thankfulness

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save (NOT auto correct!), Clementine (my orange VW Tiguan), inside jokes, oddity, free shipping, bingeworthy shows, hugs, belly laughs, podcasts, the smell of a new book, a new box of crayons (or Sharpies!), duct tape (seriously!), puppies and kittens, chocolate (should probably be at the top of the list – definitely up there with coffee!), BioFreeze (no explanation needed), caller ID, deodorant (and everyone that wears it!), funny cat videos (or any funny videos), people who “get” me and my humor, and, finally, my own bed and my own shower – there’s no place like home!”

In addition to my tight-knit circle, I’m thankful for the affection of a good dog, or in my case two good dogs, and for cozy snuggles with one flat-faced, blue Persian. I’m also thankful for a roof over my head, food on my table and other daily blessings that millions of people around the world still only dream of. I’m grateful for my job and coworkers at The Times Dispatch and Sunday mornings with my family at Free Street Church of Christ.

Emily Johnson with husband Jullian

Emily Johnson, graphic designer/ editorial associate, Monroe County Herald:

“While I’m extremely grateful for the larger things in life – my husband, my kids, God, family and friends, pets, home, job, freedom, art, etc – I’m the kind of person that can be very thankful for even the small things in life. I get a kick out of things most people might consider insignificant, but I’m taking time this year to list some of them. Things I’m thankful for: sarcasm – it’s my superpower, air conditioning, music, books, elastic, creativity – mine and everyone else’s, sleeping in – and waking up before your alarm goes off knowing you get another hour or two of sleep, coffee – which allows me to function semi-normally and not stab be civil to people before 10 a.m., taking off your bra at the end of the day (every woman will agree with this), auto-

significant others and our friends and family. As with every year, this year I’m thankful for the ones I hold dearest, my daughter, Lexington, husband, Kyle, and my parents, Rick and Lesha Prater. As an only child and an only grandchild, and just having one child myself, my circle is small but mighty.

Shantelle Redden

Shantelle Redden, advertising consultant, The Times Dispatch in Walnut Ridge:

“The Thanksgiving holiday is a special time to remember, reflect and thank God for the many blessings He has bestowed on us. It’s a time to celebrate with the ones we hold dearest – our children,

Lastly, I’m most thankful that my twoyear-old is healthy, rambunctious and wild, although it drives me crazy at times. Weekly I’m reminded through the power of social media that others are facing the unimaginable; the ones who specifically pull on my heartstrings are living at the Ronald McDonald House (St. Jude) in Memphis. I have so much gratitude in my heart that my little girl is healthy, despite constant ear infections, and I pray she keeps in good health throughout life. So to sum up what I’m thankful for, I’m thankful for my life and the blessings I’ve received, from my family to my critters, but most of all I’m thankful my daughter has the opportunity to be a healthy kid.”

Little River News suspends publication indefinitely The Ashdown-based Little River News has suspended publication, publisher Mica Wilhite announced in an open letter to readers last week.

Wilhite said the newspaper’s Nov. 21 edition will be the last until a buyer emerges. She said the she hopes “a new Arkansas Publisher Weekly

publisher and staff will step forward to resume publication as soon as possible using the Little River News name.” The Little River News is owned by Bob Palmer, who reacquired the publication from another owner earlier this year. Palmer also owns the Jefferson Jimplecute in Texas, where Wilhite serves as publisher. Wilhite took over as publisher of the 3

Ashdown newspaper in July. She said that it became clear in her five months on the job that “a different solution to publishing the Little River News is a better fit for the county.” “Suspending publication of a weekly newspaper is not an easy decision, but it is the responsible business decision.” The Little River News is the oldest business in Little River County. It was established in 1888 in Richmond and relocated to Ashdown a decade later. November 27, 2019


Guest Column: Are community newspapers akin to a circus? By Peter Wagner There are times when producing a community newspaper can seem like being in a circus. One moment you are the acrobat balancing your way across a high wire and the next you’re the featured clown. I learned, while attending seminars in Massachusetts recently, that the small tent and arena circus and community newspapers have much in common. The revelation hit me during a panel discussion featuring four of the nation’s leading small show circus producers. You probably wouldn’t recognize any of their names, but the panel included former Ringling stars Jeanette Williams and Bello Nock. Both can trace their roots back to family-owned European circuses. What immediately drew me into the discussion were the opening words of the first speaker: “The circus is not dead,” he shouted passionately to the crowd. He went on to say that public perception was there was little or no interest in the circus now that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, often referred to as “the big one” had closed. His statement echoed that of the similar uneducated “Newspapers are dead” cry we often see hurled at our industry. A statement that is often followed with examples of huge metro papers closing or cutting back. Outside pressures and single-minded organizations are making major changes to the circus, the producers agreed. Today’s audience doesn’t seem to want animals in the circus, for example. But Cirque Du Soleil’s many productions with their central storyline and human performers are attracting huge crowds. The performance program many have changed, the producer’s agreed, but those who love the human desire for live performances and work in the business “have an obligation to see that the circus survives.” And the same is true of the publishing business. Our audience may have Arkansas Publisher Weekly

changed, and a generation may even have seemingly turned in other directions for their limited news, but the majority of people living in most local communities still want and embrace their hometown paper. Like those individuals struggling to maintain the circus, we who love the printed paper have an obligation to keep it going. Making it in the circus world, the producers said, is simply a question of supply and demand. The closing of RB&BB can be seen as an opportunity by some. That two-headed giant, the red and blue units, often exhausted a family’s available entertainment budget for that kind of entertainment. The absence of Ringling in metro communities promises greater audiences for shows playing smaller towns and the rural areas. In the same way, metro papers reducing their number of publication days or area of distribution opens new opportunities for hometown publishers. But here are the four key points of the circus producer’s message. It could be a survival treatise for all of us in the publishing business. 1. “We need to find new options for the circus,” one stated. “If we can’t attract a following with elephants and tigers what should we feature?” 2. “We have to give consideration to packaging,” said another. “The theme, costuming, lighting, music and spectacle is as important as the content.” 3. “We must return to what the circus once was,” was a third comment. 4. “Attending a circus is still about adding quality to life,” shared another. I sat there with my heart warming as I heard suggestions for the revival of the circus that also apply to our publishing industry. Like the circus, we need to find new editorial and revenue options. Many local publishers are growing their online and social platforms, but those are not creating 4

the financial return possible from a wellsupported newspaper. To that end, we must revise our content and coverage to provide the information most important and interesting to our subscribers. That means less canned news releases and more original hard news coverage of the local government agencies, sports coverage, school news, business news and well-written pieces on local people and places. Packaging, too, is a must if local newspapers are going to survive and grow. The number one reason readers give for preferring a printed paper over the internet is the convenient gathering together of material. Subscribers can find the information they want — sports, social news and council news — nicely edited and interestingly presented in the printed paper. More importantly, the pages are designed in a way that draws the reader into the material with many re-entry points that keeps the reader interested. With the internet, it is sometimes necessary to search for the information desired and there is often a question of credibility. Plus, like the circus, we must find ways to return to what the local paper once was. The community paper was the first social media with tidbits of who had Sunday dinner with friends or relatives and who was visiting in town. The hometown paper has always been the only source of detailed information regarding the local school, sports team, church activities and local government issues. Community papers have to truly dig into all that is “local” if the publishers expect to hold on to their readership. The same is true about advertising. We, as an industry, have sometimes out priced our value and expected more of our advertisers than we should. In the current multimedia mix and growth of small ad agencies, we must present our story clearly and boldly, offering easy to understand and use promotions at prices smaller advertisers can afford. Continued on Page 5

November 27, 2019


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But the best statement I heard at the circus seminar was the one about maintaining the “quality of life.” The local newspaper is the sounding board of the community sharing balanced ideas from all sides. It is the community cheerleader promoting growth, wise decisions and family values. It is the watchdog, making sure those in authority live up to the standards expected of elected officials. It should have a passion for assuring a “quality of life” for all the people it serves.

What is true about the status of the circus and the community paper is equally true about many small, meaningful enterprises in our city. Many are facing the same threats from the big investors working the internet. Perhaps some future loss from not being able to obtain goods and services locally will be reversed in the days to come. If so, it will probably be through the new local partnerships and local community marketing ideas. But, to me, there will always be a need

for the community paper. Too often I have seen when a community loses its newspaper everything else eventually seems to disappear. We, who care about our industry, need to reinvent how the world sees and uses the newspaper. 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 or calling his cell at (712) 348-3550.

Support the future of Arkansas journalism by giving to the Arkansas Newspaper Foundation. Your generous donations will ensure the continued funding for the next generation of Arkansas journalists. Ways to give: Estate planning, memorial and honor gifts and charitable donations. The Arkansas Newspaper Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization. For more information call APA at 501-374-1500 or email info@arkansaspress.org

Arkansas Publisher Weekly

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November 27, 2019

Profile for Arkansas Press Association

Arkansas Publisher Weekly: November 27, 2019  

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

Arkansas Publisher Weekly: November 27, 2019  

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