I started writing this column about three years ago for the Maumelle Monitor. I was asked by then-editor Bill Lawson if I was interested. It paid nothing but I could write about whatever I chose and the columns should run about 600-800 words per week.
I had no journalism training. I was trained to be an actor and I had about a 30-year career in advertising and public relations, so I thought it might help improve my writing “chops” if I accepted the position.
Well, I’m still here, but the Maumelle Monitor is no more. As you know, I am coming to you from the pages of The Times, North Little Rock. As of this column, I am writing for many readers who have never heard of this column or me.
Here’s how it shakes out: In Pulaski County, the North Little Rock Times will remain, and folded into it will be the Maumelle Monitor, Sherwood Voice and Jacksonville Patriot for a weekly newspaper that will be distributed on Thursdays.
In Lonoke County, the Cabot Star-Herald, Lonoke Democrat and The Carlisle Independent will combine into the Lonoke County Democrat and will be distributed on Wednesdays. All of the papers are owned by GateHouse Media, which owns 314 daily newspapers and 125 weeklies all over the country.
Not as many people read hard-copy newspapers anymore and display advertising in newspapers has declined. Thus, income is down. Combinations of existing newspapers will be the norm.
The small-town newspaper may be a thing of the past. The wonderful rural columnists will fade away. No one will report that “Mr. and Mrs. Neal Moore visited Mr. and Mrs. Shaw Neal,” as it was reported several times in Warren’s Eagle Democrat when we would visit my grandparents in Hermitage, just up the road from Warren and home of world famous Bradley Pink Tomato.
Regional Publisher Ed Graves is quoted as saying, “There will be a new, bigger and better combined weekly reading experience.” He also promised a stronger digital effort on county-oriented websites.” The digital part of the program has not happened in Maumelle in quite a while, but we’ll wait and see.
Here’s what my boss, Regional Editor Jeremy Peppas, had to say: “We hope those [web] sites become a daily destination for our online readers.” Peppas will remain in that role for the combined papers. “We’ll have daily coverage from the counties as well as news and sports coverage from arkansasnews.com. It is all part of an overall effort to adjust as both consumers of news and the advertisers that support those efforts as the shift towards digital media continues.”
I hope the newspapers will fulfill their commitment to their online sites and that they will continue to have a separate Maumelle website devoted to our local news. If they don’t do it, someone probably will. Maumelle is large enough to have a community news website, but you have to sell ads to support it and you have to have someone dedicated to its content.
I hope this new effort takes off. The new paper is supposed to have a “Maumelle section,” and I’m not sure how many pages that will entail. That will be dependent on Maumellians continuing to send their articles, photos and event announcements. I can always help you get that done.
Then, more importantly, it will be important for you, the loyal reader, to stick with us and continue your subscription. Be sure and send me your thoughts on the new way of presenting our paper. And if you own a business, run an ad every once in a while. Money helps continue our coverage.
I now get paid to write this column, but only enough to pay a Maumelle water bill, my community tax bill and a few burgers and pizzas during a month. I do it because I want to. Many of you send me notes of encouragement and that means more than you know. So for the time being,
See you on the Boulevard. *
* For those who don’t live in Maumelle, that is reference to Maumelle Boulevard which is Highway 100 and runs south to north from I-430 in North Little Rock through Maumelle. It is my signature signoff.
P.S. Next week, I’ll talk with Regional Editor Jeremy Peppas and former editor Bill Lawson about this paper now and in the past.
Neal Moore is a public relations and advertising consultant and freelance writer. If you have a community concern, news tip or if you’re just irritated about something, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook, Linkedin or Twitter, @kneelmore.