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Survey shows Americans trust local news more than national news


Guest Column: Into the Issues by Al Cross

Ar k ansas


Publisher Weekly


Vol. 14 | No. 46 | Thursday, November 14, 2019

Serving Press and State Since 1873

Traveler staffers reflect on lessons learned, generosity 50 years after fire destroyed office, dark room and press There wasn’t a textbook in Hill Hall, charred or otherwise, that would have prepared student journalists at the Arkansas Traveler for their learning experience exactly 50 years ago this week.

we’re going to find places to work,’ and we did.”

Rutherford, who now serves as dean of the University of Arkansas Clinton

Fire destroyed the Traveler’s office, dark room and printing press inside Hill Hall in Fayetteville at the University of Arkansas. on Nov. 11, 1969. Even as hundreds of students gathered around Hill Hall to watch it burn — some calling the Hogs as they did so — reporters and editors got to work on the next day’s edition. “For the first 24 hours, you had to go into your reporting mode, in addition to knowing your office was going up in flames,” said James L. “Skip” Rutherford III, who was a reporter for the Traveler. “Some people on the staff were interviewing and crying at the same time. “Adversity may force you to change, but it can’t curtail your spirit. We just began saying, ‘We’re going to get through this, we’re going to keep the paper going and Continued on Page 2

Fire at Hill Hall on November 11, 1969. (Photo credit: “ A History of the Arkansas Traveler” website.)

Brinkley’s Monroe County Herald launches first website The Monroe County Herald in Brinkley has launched its first website, monroecountyherald.news, and offers online subscriptions for the first time.

The website launch is one of several improvements at the newspaper acquired in 2016 by current publisher Hayden Taylor. The publication also has a new printer and is changing subscription software. With the launch of the website, the Herald is offering new, online-only subscriptions for $25. Existing newspaper subscribers

already have access to the digital edition. New print subscriptions remain $35 annually for in-state subscribers and $60 for out-of-state. The newspaper stressed on a Facebook post that “… we hope you continue to enjoy reading the printed version of your hometown newspaper! We are not going to stop producing a printed paper!”

Traveler staffers reflect on lessons learned, generosity 50 years after fire destroyed office, dark room and press Continued from Page 1

School of Public Service, was among the first people at the scene on the evening of the 11th. He recalled rushing to the newspaper’s third-floor offices but turning away and seeking help when he noticed flames and smoke behind the office’s closed doors.

Arkansas Press Association president, allowed the Traveler staff to use the Springdale newspaper’s offices that night and in ensuing weeks. The Traveler was printed in Springdale until the University of Arkansas replaced its printing press. Blagg is an award-winning, Fayettevillebased journalist and columnist who is a member of the UA’s Walter J. Lemke Department of Journalism Hall of Honor. In 1969, she was a graduate resident living in Futrall Hall on the UA campus. Blagg assembled the Traveler news team in the lobby of Futrall Hall the night of the fire. “Everybody just came flooding over there, brought their typewriters and we took over the formal living room,” Blagg said. “We produced the newspaper in that space and then took all of our copy up to Springdale and spent the night up there putting it together.”

Firefighters try to contain fire at Hill Hall on November 11, 1969. (Photo credit: “ A History of the Arkansas Traveler” website.)

Rutherford credited the newspaper’s editor, Brenda Blagg, for marshalling the student staff to report on the event for the following day’s newspaper. “It was one of her finest moments,” he said. “I think between confusion and doubt and sadness and anger, all on the staff’s mind about this fire, Brenda Blagg just stood tall.” Blagg said praise should go to the late Charles Sanders, general manager of The Springdale News. Sanders, a past


Journalism is indispensable to our society. Maybe after the clergy, there is no higher calling.

- Frank Bennack Former Hearst CEO

Arkansas Publisher Weekly

Springdale News Sports Editor Chuck Hemingway, a former Traveler reporter, was still a student at the time of the fire. He urged Sanders and News Editor Jim Morriss to open their doors to the student journalists. “We trouped a bunch of people up there and the folks were able to get a paper out,” said Hemingway, who now lives in Bend, Oregon. “I don’t think the Sanders’s charged anything. They did it as a community service and to help the journalism program.” Blagg said the Traveler, a 5-day-aweek publication at the time, would have missed an edition without the help of the Springdale News. She noted the journalism community tends to demonstrate hospitality often when others need it.

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“Every time there’s a fire, a flood or damage that puts someone out of business, other folks will step up to help,” Blagg said. “But this was a student paper, and you wouldn’t expect that to happen.” The fire was blamed on faulty wiring, and the Traveler’s third-floor offices and several classrooms and faculty offices on the second floor sustained most of the damage. The university repaired Hill Hall, then razed it in the early 1990s to make way for an expansion of the campus’s library. Blagg has held on to one relic of the fire, a copy of the Declaration of Independence that’s darkened by smoke and charred at the edges. She said she plans to donate the document to the Traveler as a reminder of the fire. Rutherford reached out to Blagg about the anniversary earlier this week when Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Dan Kemp reminded him about it, he said. Rutherford said Kemp was a UA student at the time who remembered driving by the scene where journalism students mourned while other students acted as if they were at a bonfire. “They weren’t saying ‘Fake News!’ They were just calling the Hogs,” Rutherford said. Rutherford would go on to become editor of the Traveler in 1971. Before becoming dean of the Clinton School, he was a top adviser to President Bill Clinton and president of the Clinton Foundation. “One of the things being on the Traveler staff provided for me was a very diverse environment of talented college students who in a time of both personal and professional crisis pulled together. That’s the lesson learned,” he said.

mark your calendar

APA will be closed on Thursday , Nov. 28 & Friday, Nov. 29 for the Thanksgiving holiday.


November 14, 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

—30— Rita Rose Barthol

Rita Rose Barthol of Little Rock died Oct. 18. She was 86. Barthol, a graduate of the University of Arkansas, started her journalism career as a reporter for the Camden News. She went on to work for the Guardian, which later changed its name to Arkansas Catholic. The mother of six children, Barthol left the newspaper and became a homemaker. She worked in the nursery program at Our Lady of Holy Souls Church in Little Rock, where she was a member. She was preceded in death by her husband, John, and a son. She is survived by three daughters, two sons and eight grandchildren.

Webinar will discuss growing revenue through digital and social media America’s Newspapers, the group created from the merger of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association and Inland Press Association, will host a webinar for newspaper professionals on Nov. 21 at 1 p.m.

The webinar, “Using Digital and Social Media for Growing Readership and Revenue,” will be led by Robert Slocum, publisher of the Timber Lake Topic in South Dakota. Slocum, the owner and publisher of the small weekly newspaper, has used social media and digital content to supplement

and promote the print newspaper. The newspaper’s online following has surpassed its print circulation numbers, so Slocum has started growing a new revenue stream from sponsored digital content.

The webinar is free to members of America’s Newspapers and $45 for nonmembers. To register, visit newspapers.org/Americasnewspapers/webinar-nov21. For members who do not have a member code for the webinar, email Paulette Sheffield at psheffield@newspapers.org.

Women in Journalism Workshop scheduled for May 2020 in Missouri The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri will host its annual Women in Journalism Workshop from May 1-3, 2020, at the institute’s campus in Columbia, Missouri.

Registration is $50 for students and $75 for professionals. The institute offers a limited number of scholarships for travel and student registration. To register, and to apply for a scholarship, visit rjionline.org/ events/women-in-journalism-workshop.

The deadline to apply is December 15.

The workshop is intended to focus on challenges, accomplishments and issues specific to women in the journalism industry. The 2020 workshop’s topics include newsroom management and tools, self-care, HEAT training, data analysis, machine learning and AI for journalism, immersive storytelling, secondary trauma, advocating for yourself and applying for grants.

Knight Foundation and Gallup survey found Americans trust local news outlets more than national counterparts

A recent survey by the Knight Foundation and Gallup Inc. found that more Americans trust their local news providers than they do national counterparts. In the “State of Public Trust in Local News” survey, researchers found that 45 percent of Americans trust reporting by local outlets either “a great deal” or “quite a lot” compared to 31 percent for national organizations.

Local journalists are seen by Americans as providing more coverage that can bee used in daily life and in reporting without bias. Survey respondents trusted local news to report without bias by a 66 percent to 31 percent margin over national news. To read the full report, visit https:// knightfoundation.org/reports/state-ofpublic-trust-in-local-news/ Arkansas Publisher Weekly

In a blog post, John Sands with the Knight Foundation encouraged the public to read the findings for themselves, saying they “present a complex landscape” for local news.

Sands said local news outlets trail other local institutions in their amount of trust, and that more and more, partisanship is a factor in how Americans view their local news sources. He said: “The same forces that have eroded trust in the national media are now beginning to filter down to the local level. While more Americans trust their local news outlets more than national, that trust is more fragile than previously understood – and vulnerable to the same perceptions 4

of partisan bias that threaten confidence in national media.”

The study should be significant to local news organizations because local news has an impact on “the health of civic life and our democracy,” he said. “Without coverage, fewer people run for office, and fewer people vote and become involved in their communities. If people don’t trust these outlets, local news can’t be effective at playing that key role in our communities,” he wrote. The Knight Foundation is expected to release this month another study on local news that focuses on the value of local news outlets and their financial futures. November 14, 2019

Guest Column:

Into the Issues By Al Cross

In explaining my work, I sometimes say that there are thousands of really good journalists in rural America, but all too often they are the only person in their newsroom that fits that description. They suffer from the isolation of rurality, with fewer opportunities than urbanites to rub shoulders and exchange ideas with their professional peers. That observation applies to independent rural publishers, too. They may attend state newspaper meetings, but there’s nothing like the National Newspaper Association convention, where editors and publishers from New England, the North Woods, the Great Plains, the Corn Belt, the Deep South, the Intermountain West, the Pacific Coast and other regions exchange ideas. That’s especially important for the approximately one-third of weekly newspapers not owned by groups, which can be sources of ideas (and instruction). Get them together, and the love to help each other. This was on display at the Great Ideas Exchange at the National Newspaper Association’s annual convention in Milwaukee on Oct. 3. There were too many ideas to share in this limited space, but here are some themes and standouts: Engagement with the audience is a key task these days, and some circulation ideas at the session were good examples. The Lancaster News in South Carolina delivers to funeral homes 10 copies of the paper for distribution to families and friends who want a copy of an obituary. With a sponsor, the copies count as paid circulation. The paper also gives all its yearly subscribers a page of coupons (usually $5 each) worth a total of $25, and is trying to get to $50, the price of a one-year-subscription, Publisher Susan Rowell said. The promotion has converted a lot of six-month subscribers, and “You do something for your loyal customers just to keep ‘em,” she said. Effective engagement means taking every opportunity to build loyalty, and that includes people in the newsroom. The North Scott Press of Eldridge, Iowa, asks subjects of its stories, “Where do you read the paper?” That indirect approach is better than asking if they subscribe or buy it regularly. If their answer indicates that they don’t, the next question is “Would you like to receive it at home?” and offer a three-month free trial, Publisher Bill Tubbs says. The Arkansas Publisher Weekly

staffer making the contact gets $3 for a free trial and $7 for a paid subscription. Many newspapers have made magazines and directories good revenue sources. The Echo Press in Alexandria, Minn., produces a Churches of Douglas County magazine every other year, charges $50 for a listing and gives each church 10 copies. Some newspapers provide membership lists that the paper uses to solicit sponsorships, Publisher Jody Hanson said. “It’s a really good reference guide,” she said, adding that some churches initially declined to participate, but now say “Don’t ever do it without us.” The Echo Press also hires a Santa Claus for three hours after school, asks parents to bring a food item to donate to the needy, takes photos of Santa with the kids, provides a link to the pictures and prints them in a holiday-greetings section with kids’ letters to Santa. Hanson also had a good idea for the typical “progress edition” many papers publish in winter when ads are slow: Along with features on businesses, list building permits and related reports from local governments, which are documentary evidence of community development. Lettie Lister of the Black Hills Pioneer in Spearfish, S.D, said she was told that “progress sections were dead,” but theirs attracts many non-regular advertisers. It’s not called a progress edition, but “Our Towns,” which sounds like something that people will keep a long time, adding to its ad value. The Pioneer marked its 140th anniversary by mining its historic archives in the last quarter of the 19th century, starting with reports of the battle at Little Big Horn. The paper did a feature every Saturday, then a compilation without ads but a $10 price tag. A newspaper’s big anniversaries can be celebrated with a section that also celebrates lesser anniversaries of other businesses, said Peggy Scott of the Leader in Festus, Mo. It marked its 20th and 25th anniversaries and chose the most compelling stories of other businesses, with no repeats between the two. Don’t run a bunch of extra photos without considering opportunities for a sponsored page, spread or even a section, said Mary Huber of the Archbold (Ohio) Buckeye. 5

Local schools have many events that lend themselves to this: athletics, theatrical presentations, science fairs and so on. Local festivals are natural opportunities for special sections, but the Grant County Herald in Minnesota takes up a few notches with a $100 treasure hunt for a hidden “newsbox” with a coin, promoted with a spread of ads with clues to its location. Almost every advertiser participates. The last clue is posted at the Herald office during the festival, and dozens of people line up to get it. Bill Ostendorf of Creative Circle Media Solutions urged publishers to do a totalmarket-circulation edition once or twice a year: “Advertising more than pays for it, and it’s a really god promotional thing” for circulation. I added that my institute encourages newspapers to include a health and wellness section in its TMC editions; our research shows that people need and want health information, and are more likely to subscribe to the newspaper if they know it regularly has such information. Also, most health-care providers have a budget for advertising, and newspapers are leaving a lot of that money on the table. One of the session’s more interesting ideas came from Dick Seibel of the Silver City (N.M.) Daily Press and Independent. In New Mexico, each county has a lobbying day during legislative sessions, and his Grant County has long had one of the more ostentatious. The paper does a special section about the county’s attractions and its legislative priorities, printing 3,000 extra copies that are distributed to legislators and other officials and around the capital of Santa Fe. Seibel said the project reinforces the importance of the newspaper to movers and shakers. And that’s what makes this idea worth mentioning. Wish we could have included them all!

Al Cross edited and managed weekly newspapers before working 26 years for the Louisville Courier Journal and serving as president of the Society of Professional Journalists. For 15 years, he has directed the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, where he is professor of journalism. November 14, 2019

Profile for Arkansas Press Association

Arkansas Publisher Weekly: November 14, 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 14, 2019  

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

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