ARKADELPHIA, Ark. (KTHV) - Friday, Sept. 14, marked the end of operations for three Arkansas newspapers owned by GateHouse Media.
The Hope Star, Nevada County Picayune-Times and Daily Siftings Herald of Arkadelphia published their final editions this week.
“The newspaper industry -- I wouldn't say that it's dead – but it is a challenge,” said Jamal Brown, who served as the final managing editor of the Siftings Herald.
In a post on its Facebook page Sept. 5, the Siftings Herald announced it would publish its final issue some nine days later after 150 years in Arkadelphia.
“I would say that the newspaper plays a very, very important role in a community the size of Arkadelphia because it's the voice of the community,” Brown said. “It gives citizens an opportunity to voice their concerns.”
In a column printed in Friday’s Siftings Herald, GateHouse Media Regional Vice President Matt Guthrie wrote that the decision to close the papers “was not made lightly, and it was not made locally.”
“I’ve worked closely with the local management team to make business decisions that would ensure a viable future for these community papers,” Guthrie wrote in the column. “The challenges have been difficult to overcome, with declining subscription and ad revenue and, more recently, increased newsprint expense,” he wrote.
The decision to close these newspapers came weeks after GateHouse shut down its papers in North Little Rock and Lonoke County.
Ashley Wimberly, executive director of the Arkansas Press Association released the following statement in response to the closures:
A community loses part of its spirit when it loses its newspaper. We're saddened for the hard-working employees of these three papers and for the residents of three southwest Arkansas cities who will be without their best source for local news.
While this is a difficult time for those communities, the recent newspaper closings in Arkansas have all been made by the same company. We don't have any reason to believe this is part of a trend, and in fact, almost all of our member newspapers are thriving, successful businesses dedicated to the areas they serve.
Multiple parties have expressed interest in reviving the newspapers, so we are hopeful this is a short-term loss.
- Ashley Wimberly, Executive Director, Arkansas Press Association
“It's a loss for this community, but I think this community will rebound in some way, shape or form,” Brown said.
Guthrie echoed this sentiment, saying that the Siftings Herald has "received calls and comments from disappointed customers expressing concerns for the loss of community coverage; unfortunately some have included inexcusable hate speech directed to our staff."