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ARKANSAS

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Publisher Weekly

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Vol. 13 | No. 49 | Thursday, December 6, 2018

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Serving Press and State Since 1873

Springdale Har-Ber High School paper controversy puts spotlight on state law

After a public outcry and demands from journalism organizations across the country, the Springdale School District this week reversed course on its decision to censor articles written by student journalists at Har-Ber High School. The controversy, first reported by BuzzFeed News, involved the HarBer Herald’s investigation into football players transferring from Har-Ber to rival Springdale. The lead article about the transfers was referred to as “extremely divisive and disruptive” by the school’s superintendent, Dr. Jim Rollins.

While that may have been the case, the Har-Ber Herald should still have been allowed to publish the article, said John Robert Schirmer, publisher of two southwest Arkansas papers and former publications adviser at Nashville High School. “I believe that the Arkansas Student Publications Act allows the Har-Ber students to do exactly what they’ve done, even if their stories cause some to feel

uncomfortable,” Schirmer said. “They are acting within the provisions of Arkansas law.”

Schirmer was part of a working group of student publications advisors and others in the industry who came together in 1994 to help draft the Arkansas Student Publications Act. The law, enacted in 1995, specifically permits school papers to freely exercise their rights to expression, with very few exceptions. Among the exceptions are obscenity, libel or slander,

an unwarranted invasion of privacy, or publications that incite students to break the law or school rules. At the time, Arkansas was one of only

six states to have enacted such a law. Currently, there are 14 states that have student publications protections, according to the Student Press Law Center. The impetus for the Arkansas Student Publications Act was the censorship of several student papers across the state in the early 1990s, Schirmer said. He mentioned one Little Rock school’s student newspaper was yanked out of the distribution racks by administrators. Bill Downs, who was chairman of the Ouachita Baptist University journalism department, Dr. Bruce Plopper of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Schirmer and others were in the group that drafted the proposed legislation. Then-Gov. Jim Guy Tucker signed the bill into law the following year. “It is important for student journalists to have the right to deal with controversial subjects as they report the news in their schools,” Schirmer said. “At the time we worked on the law, Downs was also the executive director of the Arkansas

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Baxter Bulletin announces promotions on advertising staff The advertising manager for the Baxter Bulletin in Mountain Home has been promoted to a regional sales director position for Gannett and one of the newspaper’s account executives will now fill the ad manager role, the publication recently announced.

for the Gannett properties in Jackson, Hattiesburg and Mountain Home.

Adrianne Dunn, who was ad manager for the paper for five years, will now work from the organization’s Jackson, Mississippi, office where she will oversee sales

In an article published in the Baxter Bulletin, Wooten was quoted as saying: “I am excited to take the reins from Adrianne and lead the team. With our LOCALiQ

Amanda Wooten, a Baxter Bulletin account executive since 2007, has taken over as new ad manager in Mountain Home.

rebrand, we are more sophisticated than ever, and no one can match our capabilities and expertise. I look forward to continuing to grow our team to help create successful marketing campaigns for our clients, as well as build more relationships throughout the community. It is also exciting to continue working with Adrianne. She will still be heavily involved with the Baxter Bulletin, and that is a huge asset to us.” Continued on Page 2


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Adren Cooper Adren Cooper, a Little Rock native and former Associated Press reporter who helped cover the 1957 Little Rock Central High School crisis for the Arkansas Democrat, died on Nov. 16 in New Hampshire. He was 91.

Cooper was drafted to the U.S. Army on D-day and served stateside. After the Army he began his journalism career at the Democrat, and then worked as a reporter for the Associated Press in Dallas, Kansas City and Washington D.C. He then spent 30 years as a writer and editor in the Public Affairs Department of the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington. His obituary noted that he “believed in truth in news and read the newspaper daily.”

He is survived by a daughter and three siblings. His ex-wife, Margaret Cooper, lives in Cabot. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to NAMI Vermont or NAMI New Hampshire for support, education and advocacy for people and families of those living with mental illness. A service was held Dec. 2 in Hazen.

Let Us Know We want to know about your new hires, retires and promotions! Send youract “Journalism is an staffi changes info@ ofng faith in thetofuture.” arkansaspress.org to be - Ann Curry updated online and included in the Publisher Weekly.

Springdale Har-Ber High School paper controversy puts spotlight on state law

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Scholastic Press Association (ASPA). This was something very important to him, and it became a key part of his legacy as ASPA director. He wanted to make sure that Arkansas students and their advisers could report the news without the threat of censorship.” Schirmer said he hoped student journalists at Har-Ber recognized they had the support of professional journalists across the state, and that Arkansas is a “national leader in protecting freedom of the press.” National associations have rallied to support the Herald staff as well. In a letter to Rollins, the Student Press Law Center and other organizations noted that the law was enacted “specifically to prevent what is now happening at Har-Ber High School.” The letter states that administrators required the paper’s advisor, Karla Sprague, to remove the content from the internet. After she later asked that it be reposted, the district prohibited it. Har-Ber Principal Paul Griep then suspended the Herald’s publication until the district could write new policies. If the Herald attempted to publish during its suspension, “Ms. Sprague would be disciplined and possibly terminated,” according to the letter. In an about-face on Dec. 4, the school district issued a statement that it allowed the original news story and editorial to be republished online after “continued consideration of the legal landscape …

“Threatening their advisor with dismissal is not the way to handle this issue,” Schirmer said. If the student journalists had made errors in their reporting, there’s another solution, he said. “I understand that some people are saying there are a few inaccuracies in the story. If so, welcome to the real world, Har-Ber students,” Schirmer said. “Those things happen to all of us. They should sit down with their adviser and write a correction if indeed there are errors in the story, just as they would at a professional publication.” Schirmer had high praise for Halle Roberts, the Herald’s editor. Roberts told BuzzFeed her career goal was to work for ESPN. “If students around Arkansas have the same determination as Ms. Halle Roberts … the profession will be in good hands,” he said. “High school newspapers are no longer filled with gossip columns, senior profiles or meaningless polls. Many are high-quality publications that thoroughly cover their schools and report on good and bad things that happen. Students who work on publications like that learn valuable lessons that will help them in college and in their media careers.”

Baxter Bulletin announces promotions on advertising staff Continued from Page 1

Dunn was an account executive in Mountain Home for nine years, and she was advertising manager for five, according to the paper. A Mountain Home native, she will still visit the city and the newspaper regularly, she said. Dunn and her husband, Ryan, have a 10-year-old daughter. Wooten is a native of the Twin Lakes area. She and her husband, David, have two adult children and another child in high school. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to continue to lead the team I’ve worked with

Arkansas Publisher Weekly

The matter is complex, challenging and has merited thorough review.” There was no word from Springdale as to whether the Herald’s suspension had been lifted.

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for so many years, as well as being a part of the Jackson and Hattiesburg markets,” Dunn said in The Baxter Bulletin article. “The teams are complete with driven and customer-focused professionals.” Wooten said the promotions were a “winwin” for the newspaper and that she and Dunn make a great team. USA Today Network, of which the papers are a part, describes LOCALiQ as a “datadriven marketing solution designed to simplify the complexity of marketing for businesses and drive improved return on investment.” December 6, 2018


Paxton Media Group acquires newspapers in Kentucky, North Carolina

Last call for FOIA Coalition meeting registration The Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Coalition will host its first meeting ahead of the 92nd General Assembly on Thursday, Dec. 13, at noon at the Arkansas Press Association headquarters, 411 S. Victory St., in Little Rock.

Paxton Media Group, a Paducah, Kentucky-based company that owns several Arkansas daily newspapers, has announced acquisitions of five additional newspapers in Kentucky and one in North Carolina. Paxton recently purchased The NewsArgus in Goldsboro, North Carolina, from Wayne Printing Company. Last week, Paxton announced that it has bought the Hopkinsville, Kentucky, New Era, the Dawson Springs Progress, the Princeton Times Leader, the Providence JournalEnterprise and the Oak Grove Eagle Post. The five Kentucky publications were owned by Kentucky New Era Media Group. Paxton owns more than 35 daily newspapers and a number of weekly publications in 10 states. Its Arkansas properties include the Jonesboro Sun, the Russellville Courier, the Searcy Daily Citizen, the Paragould Daily Press and the Batesville Daily Guard. “This business combination provides the financial security needed to assure these newspapers will continue to serve their communities long into the future,” said David Paxton, president and chief executive officer of Paxton Media Group in a news release. Three of the Kentucky additions print weekly. The New Era, which opened in 1869 and is Hopkinsville’s oldest continuously operating business, publishes five days a week. The Princeton Times Leader is twice weekly. The NewsArgus, in North Carolina, publishes daily.

A boxed lunch will be provided, but an RSVP is required by Dec. 11 to Ashley Wimberley, APA executive director, at ashley@arkansaspress.org. The FOIA Coalition consists of professional journalists, organizational leaders, government officials and other Arkansas citizens who have a specific interest in protecting the state’s open-records and open-meetings law. The Coalition meets regularly during legislative sessions and at other times as necessary to discuss and make recommendations related to the law. At Thursday’s organizational meeting, Ellen Kreth, APA board member and chairwoman of the legislatively created Arkansas Freedom of Information Act Task Force, will discuss the Task Force’s report to lawmakers.

Two Eastern Arkansas papers celebrate anniversaries The Times-Herald of Forrest City and Pine Bluff Commercial both recently made note of anniversaries serving their readers. November marked the 148th anniversary for the Times-Herald, the oldest established business in St. Francis County. The Pine Bluff Commercial is celebrating 138 years of providing quality journalism and important advertising services to the people of Jefferson County.

The Times-Herald, owned by Argent Arkansas News Media, is published Monday through Friday. Publisher Tamara Johnson said in a news article in the Times-Herald, “Our commitment to our readers remains strong, as we continue to work to deliver the news that matters the most to our community.” The Pine Bluff Commercial, in an editorial,

gave its thanks to its subscribers, noted struggles within the industry in recent years, and pledged to play a more significant role within the community. It urged readers to consider supporting their local paper. “So as we continue into our 138th year of operation, we look forward to many more years serving Pine Bluff as the number one source of local news. Please join us on this great journey. Subscribe and be a part of something great. Pine Bluff is growing, and we want to be a part of that. Our city means the world to us, and so too do you, dear readers.” Congratulations to both publications for being a part of the fabric of their communities for nearly 150 years.

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Arkansas Publisher Weekly: Month XX, 2018  

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

Arkansas Publisher Weekly: Month XX, 2018  

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