REX NELSON: The newspaper writer

Earlier this month, The Pine Bluff Industrial celebrated the primary anniversary of Walter Hussman Jr.’s announcement that the historic publication had been acquired by WEHCO Media.

Hussman, the writer of this newspaper, stated the Industrial could be included seven days every week contained in the digital duplicate of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

“Now we have by no means purchased a newspaper intending to do that,” he stated on the time. “And the explanation we’re doing that is we expect this will likely be nice for Pine Bluff. Really, we expect it is going to be good for our firm. If this works in Pine Bluff, that is going to be nice for neighborhood journalism in America as a result of it should present a mannequin and a path ahead for different newspapers to be sustainable.”

With so many individuals predicting the demise of the newspaper business, which is crucial to American democracy, it is time for experimentation. Hussman has proven lately that he is not afraid to experiment. In Pine Bluff, he employed the gifted Byron Tate to return for a fourth stint on the Industrial, which has now been round 140 years.

“Newspapers have had a tough approach to go,” Tate wrote in his column. “Within the day, they made some huge cash. Then firms took discover and snatched them up, intent on making large income. As newspapers modified fingers many times, every new entity was keen to chop bills and reap extra income.

“As income from internet advertising ate into that anticipated income, these new homeowners stored slicing bills and really shortly that meant fewer reporters–you know, the individuals who cowl the tales and provides readers a motive to purchase a paper. It would not take even a bachelor’s diploma in economics to see the place that prepare was heading.”

By early 2020, Tate stated that “one may match the entire Industrial workers right into a church van and possibly have room for a few canines.” Hussman stepped in.

“Hussman hasn’t been immune from the headwinds buffeting the newspaper business,” Tate wrote. “However he is hardly new to the sport, and he is positively not new to taking a threat on the media he dearly loves–newspapers. . . . Town, he stated, desperately wanted a very good newspaper, and he was going to make sure that it had one.”

Tate’s column was revealed simply as I used to be ending a guide titled “Clyde E. Palmer: Arkansas Newspaper Writer.” It is from the College of North Carolina Hussman Faculty of Journalism and Media and is distributed by the College of North Carolina Press. I used to be in a rush to complete the guide since I used to be scheduled to interview Hussman at an occasion in Little Rock. Hussman is Palmer’s grandson.

The occasion has been postponed to spring 2022 because of the pandemic. For individuals who love newspapers and acknowledge their significance to the way forward for Arkansas, it is an interesting learn. I am glad I completed the guide, initially written as a grasp’s thesis by Larry Bracken on the College of Arkansas at Little Rock in 1987.

In studying about Palmer, a pioneer in utilizing new know-how at newspapers, one sees the place Hussman inherited his willingness to take probabilities.

“I used to be solely 10 years previous when my grandfather died, so I later realized extra about him from the tales,” Hussman says. “His identify was Clyde Eber Palmer, and he started a dedication to native journalism within the public curiosity that now spans 4 generations of our household. I used to be 2 years previous when my dad and mom purchased the Camden Information in Arkansas from my grandfather and moved my two older sisters and me from Texarkana to Camden.

“My sister Marilyn was 8, and Gale was 11. They’d grown up in Texarkana, the place my grandparents additionally lived. My father was away in World Conflict II for a number of of these years, so that they spent significant time with our grandparents and knew them a lot better than I. Marilyn recounts fond reminiscences of our grandfather . . . She remembers taking part in checkers and different video games with our grandfather within the upstairs examine, and she or he attributes her love for video games to these experiences.”

Hussman started working for the household firm in 1970. The promoting director at Texarkana was additionally an aviation teacher who taught the 75-year-old Palmer to fly. On the day of Palmer’s first solo flight, he was informed to take off, make some turns and land.

Hussman tells the remainder of the story: “The teacher watched Palmer take off, make one left flip after which simply disappear over the horizon. The teacher went into a chilly sweat. Palmer may crash. He could be harm or killed. . . . And worst of all, my grandmother, Palmer’s spouse Bettie, would study [the instructor] was secretly educating her husband to fly. He waited nervously.

“A half hour later, he noticed a airplane . . . coming his method. It approached the Texarkana airport and landed. It was C.E. Palmer. Relieved, he requested Palmer the place he had gone. Palmer replied he merely adopted the freeway and flew as much as Hope and again. Palmer at all times adopted his instincts and barely match a mould.”

Hussman stated his favourite story about his grandfather concerned assembly a younger William Dillard, who had opened a retailer at Nashville in Howard County when Dillard was 24.

“After eight years, he was able to increase, and he got here to Texarkana,” Hussman says of Dillard. “One in every of his first conferences there was with the native writer, C.E. Palmer. It was 1946; Dillard was now 32 years previous, and Palmer was 70. He informed Palmer he needed to open the city’s first division retailer, however he did not have sufficient capital to do it. He stated if Palmer purchased inventory in his firm, he would turn out to be Palmer’s largest advertiser and that Palmer’s retail promoting would enhance 50 %.

“Palmer had by no means achieved something like that, however he later agreed. After he had invested and the shop was up and operating, Palmer known as Dillard one Christmas Eve and requested him to lunch. At lunch, Palmer stated that Dillard had not been trustworthy with him. This puzzled Dillard, a person of excessive integrity. Palmer then informed Dillard he had certainly turn out to be his greatest advertiser, however his enterprise had doubled, not elevated by merely 50 %. Palmer stated that if he by no means received a nickel out of the inventory, it could be the very best funding he ever made.”

Hussman writes within the foreword to the biography: “I’ve mirrored on how my profession has differed from my grandfather’s. Whereas I labored on consolidating possession inside our household, he typically sought outdoors buyers. Whereas I adopted my father’s technique to purchase and maintain properties to appreciate a return by working them, Palmer would typically purchase a newspaper and promote it inside a couple of years.

“My grandfather’s ardour was business–mostly in newspapers after which broadcasting–but he would spend money on something he thought-about worthwhile, together with actual property, oil and fuel. Palmer as soon as began a newspaper in Fort Smith, and when it proved troublesome and unprofitable, he pulled out after a 12 months. In distinction, we purchased the struggling Arkansas Democrat in 1974–and regardless of huge challenges competing with the bigger Arkansas Gazette (first owned domestically for greater than a decade of our competitors after which owned by the nation’s largest newspaper firm, Gannett, for the subsequent 5 years), we continued, and we prevailed.”

I got here to the Democrat as a sportswriter seven years after Hussman had turn out to be writer. Like Tate on the Industrial, I am on my fourth stint at both the Democrat or Democrat-Gazette. After 21 years away, I returned to full-time newspaper work in June 2017. I needed to play a small position in Hussman’s effort to publish the final true statewide newspaper in America.

“Whereas I’ve had a much more various, difficult and thrilling enterprise profession than I’d have ever imagined, my actual ardour has at all times been journalism extra so than enterprise,” Hussman says. “I spotted once I joined the household enterprise a few years after my grandfather died, and with my father nearing retirement at age 64, that I used to be drawn to the attract of carrying on into a 3rd technology the legacy of a household enterprise, a legacy began by a outstanding man and writer, Clyde E. Palmer.”


Rex Nelson is a senior editor on the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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