In the Firing Squad for Tonight’s AETN Governors Debate Among Mike Beebe, Jim Keet and Jim Lendall

AETN's video-heavy election page

AETN's video-heavy election page. Nicely done.

I’m among the panelists for today’s hour-long gubernatorial debate starring incumbent Mike Beebe (D), Jim Keet (R) and Jim Lendall (G). We tape the debate at 2 p.m. in Conway and it airs tonight at 8 p.m. on your local Arkansas Educational Television Network affiliate.

Also on tonight’s panel: Ron Breeding of NPR affiliate KUAR-FM and Bill Simmons of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. I haven’t seen anyone’s questions except my own, but I expect hot topics to include jobs, the economy, health care and, more than likely, state vehicles.

Each panelist gets ask two questions, so expect six questions total, plus opening and closing statements from each of the candidates.

Today’s debate is part of a series of debates airing each weeknight this week on AETN stations as well as on KUAR. Also tonight: the Lt. Governors debate between Shane Broadway (D) and Mark Darr (R), airing at 7 p.m.. And on Wednesday, Arkansas Business Editor Gwen Moritz is on the panel for the U.S. Senate debate, and Publisher Jeff Hankins will be part of Friday’s Attorney General debate.

You can see the full schedule of this week’s debates at AETN’s Web site here.

And speaking of that site, kudos to AETN for a solid multimedia Web effort. In its excellent debates section, you can see videos of each of the debates and conversations with voters.

Update: You can watch the full debate here.


Blanche Lincoln, Steelworkers & the Texarkana Cooper Tire Plant

Blanche Lincoln speaks to the International Trade Commission, June 2009

In this photo from her U.S. Senate Web site, U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., speaks to the International Trade Commission.

One of the latest TV ads vs. incumbent U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln is this one by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) disputing Lincoln’s claims (in her own TV ad) that she saved 1,700 jobs at the Texarkana Cooper Tire plant, which was under threat of closing in 2008.

The view expressed in the SEIU ad is that Lincoln did nothing to save those jobs, that it was the workers themselves who did so, making big concessions to Cooper.

The union has been saying this for a while now. You can see a precursor to the SEIU ad right here on YouTube. It’s been there since March.

So who’s right? Did the workers themselves keep the plant open? Or did Lincoln save the day, as she claims in her ad?

As with most political ads, there’s varying shades of truth in both spots. It appears the workers represented in the SEIU ad did do the heavy lifting and probably did the most to save their own jobs.

Lincoln, meanwhile, had varying roles in the future of the Cooper plant, one of which she won’t talk much about. In the end, she might be fairly criticized of overstating the results of her efforts.

And of course, it didn’t have to be this convoluted!

After the jump, an unwieldy, overlong assessment of both ads’ claims and who saved the Cooper jobs.

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The Razorbacks’ Infrastructure Plans, Home Design and the Democrat-Gazette Drops the ‘N’ Bomb in This Week’s Arkansas Business

Lots to get to this week’s Arkansas Business newspaper, online now and at your local newsstand (they still have those!):

It’s never enough is it? The University of Arkansas’ athletic department “has earmarked between $250,000 and $500,000 for an analysis of current and future facilities. Commissioning the study is the first step in what could eventually be tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrades.” Chris Bahn tell us what they want now.

Sam Eifling rummages through the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s archives to see just how often — and why — the newspaper publishes the dreaded ‘N’ word. Then he gets an e-mail from editor Griffin Smith.

Fox 16 tells us why it just wasn’t worth it to try and get some Sarah Palin video on the sly at Verizon Arena.

It’s never enough is it? Jan Cottingham notes several Arkansas architects who say the state is bucking the nationwide trend toward smaller homes. Bigger is still better!

Newspaper Survey Shows Online Subscriber Numbers for Democrat-Gazette, other Wehco Papers

After the jump, some top-level stats rounded up in survey by ITZ/Belden Interactive, out now and available here for purchase.

The survey, billed as the first of its kind, took a look at daily newspapers that have some kind of paywall around newspaper content. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, of course, is among newspapers in the country to put most of its content — and all of its daily print content — behind a wall to subscribers only.

First some random notes, then the full chart after the jump:

Online subscriber numbers – Back in May, we noted Mark Potts’ reporting of DG Publisher Walter Hussman’s comments at the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association. At the time, Hussman claimed, according to Potts, that the DG had signed up about 3,400 subscribers in about seven years of its locked-down model. The latest numbers from ITZ/Belden now put that number at about 3,500. Growth? It depends … on stuff we don’t know about!*

Other Wehco newspapers – This is first time I’ve seen any online subscriber numbers for other newspapers under the Wehco umbrella. According to the survey chart after the jump, the online sub numbers for DG sister papers are: El Dorado News-Times: 292; Camden News: 110; Banner-News: 89. (Wehco’s Hot Springs and Texarkana newspapers weren’t included in the report.) In terms of percentage of print readers subscribing to the online product, all those smaller papers perform better than the Democrat-Gazette, according to the chart.

That whole northwest alliance/joint venture thing – Probably isn’t reflected in this study, with the online news merger of the northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Stephens Media papers only taking place just recently.

Whey ITZ/Belden included these newspapers in their survey – I have no idea.

Now, on to What It All Means:

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OU: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Stephens Northwest Merger Moving Forward

Christopher Spencer’s Ozarks Unbound reports that the merger between the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Stephens Media’s northwest Arkansas operations is moving forward, with newspaper employees interviewing for their old jobs this week:

Staff with The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas, the Northwest Arkansas Times and the Benton County Daily Record were told they must re-apply for their jobs with the soon-to-be-formed Northwest Arkansas Newspapers LLC company.

Rusty Turner and Lisa Thompson, editors from The Morning News were reportedly making the rounds this week among some Wehco properties to interview folks for the new company.

On their application, employees must list their top two positions in order of preference, but no one is saying just how many positions are actually going to exist in the new arrangement.

Spencer also raises doubts as to whether the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette will keep its Lowell office.


Spencer, of course, is a former Stephens Media employee. He was cut earlier this year from the staff of The Morning News, but has lived to fight another day having launched the online-only Ozarks Unbound about four months ago. He takes stock of his new venture, one of many online-only news sites springing up around Arkansas, here.

Are We Really Ready for This?

Christmas in October.

Christmas in October.

Only this could shake us from an annoyingly long period of blog inactivity. In the face of it, one can only ask, Is the World Ready?

Of course, we know it’s possible to handily butcher the English language in 140 characters. But we expect big things from Wally.

Wally Hall on Twitter – Twitter

Molding Young Minds at UALR High School Journalism Day

Much thanks to the Sonny Rhodes and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for inviting me to speak during two sessions of UALR’s annual Journalism Day event, which took place Thursday.

Andrew DeMillo of The Associated Press gave the event’s keynote address on “Why Journalism Matters,” and other session leaders included Frank Fellone of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Kelly Kissel of the AP and Malcolm Glover of KUAR-FM, 89. 1, the Little Rock NPR affiliate.

I spoke in two sessions, the first on “Why Your High School Newspaper Needs to Be Online,” and the second on ” … So You’re Online, Now What?” The students were great and asked some solid questions.

I also took the opportunity to ask some questions about teen media habits. And needless to say, everything you’ve heard about how teens engage (or don’t engage) with media is probably pretty close to true.

  • Most of them don’t read newspapers — less than half of the 20 in my first session said they read the local daily on a weekly basis, and none of them read it daily.
  • Many of them said they spend at least 4 hours a day online. One student said he’ll often spend half a Saturday online.
  • They text message one another like crazy. When I told them about a study that showed the average teen sends 2,000 texts a month, many told of numbers double that. And because they’re heavy texters, their parents are, too. One student said his Mom sent 5,000 messages one month.
  • Facebook is the hotness, but MySpace is dunzo.
  • They watch TV, but usually while surfing the Web.
  • Many of them say they read magazines.
  • Oh — and none of them Twitter.

None of their high school papers were online, but a couple of schools seemed poised to invest in the Web soon. One of the big concerns for students and their advisers was finding a way to fairly moderate reader comments.

In all, it was an enjoyable session. Despite the turmoil that traditional media (newspapers, TV, radio) find themselves in, I still believe it’s an exciting time to be a journalism student. The possibilities the Web offers young reporters and editors are boundless. No longer are students defined by the medium for which they work. On the Web, the lines have blurred, and they can each be involved in writing, video, photography, audio production, Web programming and more. And given the current state of media, with all the economic and organizational challenges that exist, they have a chance to help reshape the profession as it asserts itself on mobile and online platforms.

It’s a thrilling time for those kids, and 14 years out of high school, I’m a little envious.