SPJ, other journalist groups asks Congress to improve media access
It’s time Americans stepped up and learned about the First Amendment by Judy Patrick
Ar k ansas
Vol. 14 | No. 45 | Thursday, November 7, 2019
Serving Press and State Since 1873
Civic-minded newspaper publisher balances roles When it comes to civic engagement, Beebe News owner Lee McLane has her community covered.
In addition to being the newspaper’s editor and publisher, McLane serves on the Beebe City Council. She was elected in 2016 after she decided that as a local leader she could take a more active role in decision-making at the municipal level. Besides, she was already at the meetings anyway, she quipped. “I feel connected to this community, and I wanted to have some influence over the way things happen,” McLane said in an interview earlier this week. McLane has owned the Beebe News since 1990, when she purchased the newspaper from her parents, Robert and Naomi Kemp. Robert Kemp, a former news director for a Little Rock television station, acquired the newspaper in 1967.
McLane, who earned a graduate degree in international business, said she recognizes “I’m not your typical editor
and publisher” but the newspaper was a passion for her father and she was glad to continue family ownership. She is invested in the community, she said, as evidenced by her activity on the city council. While some Beebe residents initially questioned her impartiality – as editor, McLane covers city news while serving as a council member – she said she was proud that she’s had hardly any complaints about her municipal government coverage in nearly four years as an elected city leader. “I’ve not had anybody call foul on me for anything I’ve written or not written since I’ve been in office, so I’m happy about that,” she said. “I’ve not had anybody say I’ve been unfair.” McLane said she understands why some people may look askew at her dual commitments to the newspaper and to
Mena mayor inks proclamation for National Newspaper Week The mayor of Mena last month participated in a proclamation signing ceremony recognizing Oct. 6-12 as National Newspaper Week. Mayor Seth F. Smith was joined by representatives of the Mena Star for the ceremony Arkansas Press Association Executive Director Ashley Wimberley applauded Smith and the Star staff for setting aside the time to observe the week. She encouraged other APA newspapers to Mena Mayor Seth Smith with (L to R) Elizabeth Horn, reach out to their mayors or find other Debbie Frost, Tom Byrd and Joy James of The Mena creative ways to recognize the importance Star. of newspapers during National Newspaper “The annual observance of National Week next year. Newspaper Week is an excellent time
to put your newspaper front and center in the community, whether it be through house ads, receptions at your office or proclamation signings like in Mena,” Wimberley said. “I hope our members take every opportunity they can to emphasize how essential their newspapers are in their communities.” Smith, in his proclamation, said that “the presence of local newspapers is the hallmark of a free and democratic society.” He encouraged all Mena citizens to express “appreciation for local newspapers and the role they play in society and our city.”
Civic-minded newspaper publisher balances roles Continued from Page 1
elected office. As a small-town publisher, though, she sees her engagement as something of value she can provide to the community.
McLane said. “It’s not a black-and-white question.” Another hat McLane plans to wear again soon is that of historian/author. The Beebe News published a history book a few years ago that was a positive revenue generator for the newspaper. McLane expects to work on two new publications that focus on Beebe history through specific time periods. On the newspaper side, she’s trying to capitalize on news coverage that subscribers can’t get anywhere else. “Basically, we’re doing like other newspapers and trying to find out what it is that people want,” McLane said. “I think if we supply the everyday meeting coverage and general information about what’s going on in the city, I can’t see most people just saying the internet does a better job than the newspaper.”
“I think our sense of community has to be stressed, along with our values, as newspapers, and I think that’s what will circle back around,” McLane said. “We need to be more community-based, doing business with our neighbors and helping our local communities.” McLane, a graduate of Beebe High School and Harding University, is keeping her newspaper local and in the family for the foreseeable future, she said. Her son, Christian, works at the newspaper where he handles IT issues and “all the technical stuff going on that I don’t particularly understand or want to understand.”
McLane’s view is that the recent climate is temporary, and that subscribers will soon again return to newspapers for their credibility and their staying power.
Lee McLane and then-governor Mike Beebe.
“If you look in Arkansas, you’ll see there have been several publishers in city government, especially in smaller towns. Lots of times, we wear two different hats,”
“I think we’ll have a comeback,” she said. “I think people will get tired of not being able to trust what they see on the internet, and there’s such a demand for investigative reporting in newspapers. If we didn’t have investigative reporters, the general public would never know about so many things that happen.” She is confident that subscribers and advertisers alike will remember the importance of a community newspaper and support efforts of the Beebe News.
Lee and cat Simba in 2011.
An avid animal lover, McLane’s nickname is “Cat.” When she’s asked how many cats she has, her usual response is, “I don’t know. They won’t hold still long enough for me to count.”
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November 7, 2019
The Sentinel-Record engages community with contest As The Sentinel-Record in Hot Springs describes its effort to engage community members in a creative new contest, it’s “looking for a Van Gogh who can make our van go.” The newspaper opened a contest last week to Hot Springs community artists who are willing to design art work to adorn the newspaper’s white van. Two panels, each 32 inches by 21 inches, will display design. Each panel’s design can be identical or complementary. “The Sentinel-Record is excited to see what the great artistic community of Hot Springs will come up with,” SentinelRecord General Manager Harry Porter told readers last week. “It is our hope that this art work will help (the newspaper) to enhance the growth of our brand and continue the tradition, started way back in 1877, of The Sentinel-Record being an innovator in our community.” Designs may be submitted through Dec. 6, with the winner of the competition
The newspaper will accept entries throughout the month of November for designs for its company van. Artists in the community are encouraged to submit their designs for this “mobile mural,” which will be seen throughout Hot Springs. - Photo by Tanner Newton of The Sentinel-Record .
announced on Dec. 13. The winner receives a one-year digital subscription to The Sentinel-Record, a $250 cash prize and their photo with the winning artwork in the newspapers. To enter the contest, visit hotsr.com/ VanGo or email the design to Beth Reed
at email@example.com or mail the entry to The Sentinel Record, P.O. Box 580, Hot Springs, AR 71902. Electronic submissions must be at a resolution of 250 dpi or higher. Submit the file in JPG, PDF or Adobe Illustrator format.
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Two APA newspapers announce location changes Two Arkansas Press Association (APA) member newspapers recently announced they were relocating from their existing offices to other locations in the communities they serve.
The Paris Express is moving up the aptly named Express Street in the Logan County town, from 22 S. Express St. to its new location at 20 N. Express St., across from the Logan County Courthouse. The newspaper in the announcement of its move said the previous office site would have required a number of improvements that would have not been feasible if the newspaper were to continue to occupy the building. The new site, in what was once a women’s clothing boutique, got new paint and modern furniture for the move. “It’s an ideal location for the newspaper for many reasons. It is located directly on the
—30— Charles Wayne Francis
Charles Wayne Francis, the co-owner and publisher of the White River Current in Calico Rock, died Friday, Oct. 25, at his home in Argyle, Texas. He was 71. Francis, a Texas native, is survived by three children, Deena Beeson of Denison, Texas; Jason Francis of McKinney, Texas; and Alyssa Greenwood Francis of Argyle; five grandchildren; five greatgrandchildren; and one sister. Funeral services were Saturday, Nov. 2, in Texas. The family plans to hold a memorial service in Calico Rock at a later date. Arkansas Publisher Weekly
downtown square with available access to the courthouse and city hall,” said R.J. Benner, senior group publisher for GateHouse, which owns the Express. “One main goal was to continue to be centrally located in Paris for the convenience of our customers. We enjoy being downtown …” The new office opened on Monday. A grand opening event is planned for later this month.
At The De Queen Bee, the newspaper offices at 404 W. De Queen Ave. have been closed and newspaper employees are instead working remotely. The newspaper continues to publish weekly and update news throughout the week on its website. In its announcement, the newspaper said the decision was a sign of the times, like other businesses that have “gone virtual.”
“With most of our work now being done via mobile and email, our advertising, editorial and customer service teams will now begin working directly with the community, either by telecommuting or continuing to engage readers and clients in person,” said Tom Byrd, publisher of the newspaper. “While we know this might cause a temporary inconvenience to some of our readers and customers, the truth is we hope to be even more accessible to our neighbors and friends that have patronized us their entire lives.” The Bee will place four drop boxes at locations in De Queen where readers may drop off news and photos, pay for subscriptions and turn in football contest entries. These locations are: Harris Drug, 205 W. De Queen Ave.; Selena’s, 119 N. 4th St.; Mary P.O.P.S., 116 U.S. 71 North; and Better Body Fitness Center, 812 W. Collin Raye. The newspaper’s phone number. (870) 642-2111, remains the same.
SPJ, other journalist groups asks Congress to improve media access The Society of Professional Journalists and a coalition of 28 other media and transparency groups asked Congress this week to find ways to allow for journalists to have “unimpeded communication” with federal employees. The letter to all 535 members of Congress said that restrictions requiring members of the media to speak through an intermediary such as a Public Information Officer sometimes amounts to “censorship by PIO” and, according to an SPJ news release, “works in tandem with other assaults on free speech including restrictions on public records, threats, physical assaults on reporters, prosecution of whistleblowers and threats of prosecution against reporters.” The news release stated that the journalism organizations that signed the letter have worked for several years to lift restrictions placed on federal employees about speaking to journalists. Legislation introduced in the House and Senate would have allowed federal scientists to speak directly to the media, but that provision 4
was removed from a broader bill by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. The letter asks Congress to conduct hearings on free speech and asks lawmakers and the Trump administration to “complete a thorough examination on why free speech has become so undermined for millions of people that legislation is needed to allow free speech without reporting to authorities, and on what those restrictions do to the nation’s functioning.” November 7, 2019
Guest Column: It’s time Americans stepped up and learned about the First Amendment By Judy Patrick The First Amendment isn’t getting the appreciation and respect it deserves. Increasingly battered and misunderstood, it needs all the support it can get as divisive politics and advancing technologies drag us in new directions. Many Americans don’t even know the basics. Of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, 71 percent of Americans can name at least one, according to the 2019 State of The First Amendment poll by the non-profit Freedom Forum Institute. That’s certainly an improvement over 2018, when a pitiful 60 percent of those polled could name at least one of the five freedoms. But consider this: Of the 1,007 Americans polled for the 2019 survey, just six people correctly named all five freedoms. In case the pollsters call you next year: The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, the press, religion and the right to petition and the right to assembly. Better yet: We all need to work harder at being citizens who understand our rights, our responsibilities, how government works and what we value. These powerful First Amendment freedoms, for example, give us all the courage to be independent thinkers and to live our lives how we want to. They allow us to challenge authority in ways unheard of in so many other parts of the world. It enables the press to act independently, hold government accountable and tilt at the occasional windmill. Gene Policinski, president of the Freedom Forum Institute, said these freedoms help define who we are as Americans. For him, the First Amendment is the “blue collar amendment” – because it’s such a workhorse, going to work every day in a real down-to-earth way. Yet confusion is increasing. More people in this year’s survey incorrectly thought
Arkansas Publisher Weekly
the First Amendment includes the right to vote (up to 14 percent from 2 percent in 2018) and the right to bear arms (up to 16 percent from 9 percent in 2018). There is some good news. The poll did not find substantial erosion in trust in journalism with 72 percent of those polled agreeing that it’s important for our democracy that the news media act as a government watchdog, down from 73 percent in 2018. Policinski, however, worries that result may be skewed, reflecting people’s loyalty to their individual “information bubbles.” The emergence of powerful social media platforms has also muddied the waters; 65 percent of those polled agreed that social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter violate users’ First Amendment rights when they ban people. They don’t. The First Amendment’s protections apply to the government, not private companies. But the First Amendment presents us with all sorts of emotional and intellectual challenges. It’s easy to support free speech when we agree with what’s being said. It’s far more challenging when we disagree or abhor what is being said, printed, painted, built or sung. Indeed, the First Amendment has challenged us as a society as we have debated topics such as school prayer, flag burning, printing classified information, curfews, the teaching of evolution, protests at military funerals, blue laws, Christmas displays in public parks and mandatory measles vaccinations. The rhetoric around such issues can be alienating. An increasing number of us, for example, think the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees (29 percent in 2019, up from 23 percent in 2018 and 2017). Maybe we just need another Norman Rockwell for an idealistic re-boot. In the 1940s, as the U.S. headed into what would become World War II, Rockwell’s
series of freedom paintings helped Americans understand the freedoms at stake. His four iconic works captured parts of the First Amendment (freedom of speech and religion) and added the freedoms to be free of want and fear. Despite President Franklin Roosevelt’s oratory, the “four freedoms” he outlined in 1941 speech failed to resonate with the public in a meaningful way. For help, the White House reached out to the nation’s artists and musicians. “[Rockwell] wanted to interpret them in a way the average American could understand,” said Stephanie Plunkett, chief curator of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass. But it was a challenge. “The Four Freedoms are so darned high blown. Somehow I just couldn’t get my mind around it,” Rockwell is quoted as saying. But by using scenarios from real life in small-town America, did just that. Rockwell’s “Freedom of Speech,” featuring a man standing up and speaking up in a crowded meeting room, was based on an actual town meeting in Arlington, Vt. The man was a farmer unhappy with a school project that would increase his taxes. “He gave his opinion, nodded his head and sat down,” Plunkett said. Rockwell’s idealistic “Four Freedoms” have remained popular, both providing a sense of what led America to World War II and as underscoring ideals that remain important throughout in the world, Plunkett said. Judy Patrick is the executive vice president for editorial development for the New York Press Association. This column is reprinted with permission. A special touring exhibit of Rockwell’s works will make stops in Houston and Denver later this year and in 2020.
November 7, 2019
The Arkansas Publisher Weekly is the only direct source for late-breaking news regarding Arkansas' newspapers and related industries. Publis...
Published on Nov 7, 2019
The Arkansas Publisher Weekly is the only direct source for late-breaking news regarding Arkansas' newspapers and related industries. Publis...