Jonesboro hosts annual press convention

July 8-14, 2024

By The Daily Record Staff


The state’s newspaper community met June 27-29 for its annual convention, which was held for the first time during the Arkansas Press Association’s 151-year history, in Jonesboro, Arkansas’ fifth largest city. 


The event began Thursday night on the campus of Arkansas State University where APA members were entertained with a behind the scenes tour of the Red Wolves’ sports facilities.


On Friday, ASU was the focus again during the luncheon when University Chancellor Todd Shields was interviewed by ASU System Board of Trustees member Steve Eddington and alum Rob Roedel, from Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. Dr. Shields shared his vision for A-State and provided updates on their partnership with the steel industry, the College of Veterinary Medicine, and more.


Friday night was the Honors Banquet when outgoing APA Board President Eliza Gaines of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette handed the gavel to her successor, Andrew Bagley of the Helena World and Monroe County Argus in Brinkley. 


Bagley inspired the audience with his passionate speech filled with quotes as he talked about the need for more leadership like Gaines had demonstrated in an important year for newspapers and freedom of information, which was on full display moments earlier when Tamara Johnson of The Times Herald in Forrest City received the APA’s Annual Freedom of Information Award, which was presented to her by FOIA attorney John Tull.


“I describe her as a bulldog because she would not quit it kept going on and on but she would not quit,” said Tull in his remarks about Johnson. “She is indeed a true professional worthy of respect from her readers and peers.” 


According to Arkansas 


Advocate, “The Times-Herald won a criminal case against the Palestine-Wheatley School Board brought against its members for meeting in secret to interview a candidate for interim school superintendent.”


“Johnson, the Times-Herald publisher and editor, filed her complaint against the school board in September of 2022, but the case wasn’t resolved until July 2023. The First Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney’s office declined to prosecute the case, and several local judges recused themselves, according to the APA Publisher Weekly newsletter.”


“Not until the city attorney of Forrest City agreed to serve as prosecutor and a retired circuit judge from Osceola agreed to hear it did the case move forward, sort of. After several continuances, attorneys reached an agreement for school board President Derrick Boileau to plead no contest to the misdemeanor charge, the APA newsletter reported.”


After accepting her FOI award, Johnson said, “I have been in this business for 42 years and I feel like I have fought it for 42 years and I have enjoyed every minute of it.” 


The 2024 convention concluded with its traditional Better Newspaper Editorial Awards luncheon on Saturday, as Rex Nelson of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette called out the names of those honored for their work in dozens of categories last year.


The five newspapers that were named as the top — General Excellence — in their size category were: Carroll County News, Berryville Spring River Chronicle, Hardy The Madison County Record, Huntsville  Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock Mountain Home Observer  


Photo Captions:


1.  The traditional passing of the gavel was held at the Embassy Suites in Jonesboro during the Arkansas Press Association’s annual convention June 27-29. Past presidents of the APA pass the gavel between themselves as part of the ceremony inducting the APA’s newest president, Andrew Bagley, who succeeded Eliza Gaines. (Jay Edwards)


2. Top Left: Freedom of Information Award winner Tamara Johnson


3. Top Right: General Excellence Award winners

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