Today on Arts & Letters, we talk with journalist, researcher, and professor Donna Lampkin Stephens. Her book, If It Ain't Broke, Break It: How Corporate Journalism Killed the Arkansas Gazette, published by the University of Arkansas Press in 2015 "offers a firsthand account of how and why the Arkansas Gazette, then the oldest newspaper west of the Mississippi River, died after perhaps the country’s last great newspaper war."
In this first of a two part series, we explore the history of the Arkansas Gazette until 1972, with particular emphasis on the ownership of the Heiskell family, who purchased the paper in 1902. The Heiskell family “appealed to fairness, principle, moral duty, civic pride, law and order and good manners. In short, they believed a newspaper should serve as the conscience of its community”, Stephens writes
The paper’s former editor, John Netherland (J.N.) Heiskell, once said:
He who is actually a newspaper's editor is its voice and soul and the keeper of its conscience. Choose him with care and circumspection. Arm him with freedom. Equip him with the tools of the trade. Grant him reasonable time for his work. Fortify him with your confidence. Then you may enjoy the rewards that come to a newspaper that speaks with intelligence, sincerity and conviction and that lights the way for good citizenship to follow
In part two, we pick up the story as the Gazette sparred with its rival, the Arkansas Democrat during its final decades before closing on October 18, 1991.
Thanks to Shannon McClung, Bluesboy Jag, Anna Jordan-Williams, The Uh Huhs and Stephen Winter for providing the show’s music.
Generous support for this program was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.