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The Arkansas Press Association was established on October 15, 1873, “to promote the interests of the press by securing unity of thought and action in relation to the profession of journalism and the business of publishing, to elevate its tone, purify its expressions, enlarge its usefulness, advance it in wisdom and justice, extend its influence in the work of true civilization, and to cultivate friendly relations and a spirit of fraternal regard among its members.” It is the oldest trade association in Arkansas.
The first meeting of the Arkansas Press Association was held in Little Rock (Pulaski County), with James Torrans of the Little Rock Republican serving as chairman of the call. The seventeen charter members were from all parts of the state. It was hoped that the association would allow its members to exchange ideas and have a united voice when dealing with the state government. The first elected officers of the association were J. N. Smithee of the Little Rock Gazette as president, Torrans as vice president, Jacob Frolich of the Searcy Record as secretary, and William Burke of the Helena World as treasurer.
The challenges of the frontier press were varied and many, the availability of newsprint chief among them. The association helped its members to solve the problems and successfully fought to require all levels of government to publish all legal sales, notices, and lists of delinquent taxes.
At the celebration of the association’s fiftieth anniversary, Fred W. Allsopp, historian of the association, noted that, since the founding of the Arkansas Gazette in 1819 through 1922, 1,478 newspapers and periodicals had been established in Arkansas. Only 286 remained in 1922. In 1928, Colonel Ed Landvoight of the Forrest City Times-Herald wrote: “The APA (Arkansas Press Association): from a club of enjoyment, [it] has blossomed out as a school of instruction and business.” Today, the association’s services to its members include selling national advertising and integrating content onto the Internet.
As the influence and prosperity of the newspapers in Arkansas grew, the association purchased its own building at 17th and Broadway in 1981. The association soon outgrew this building and, in 2000, purchased a spacious building at 411 South Victory Street, within view of the Arkansas State Capitol. At the Victory Street building, it conducts the business of the association and maintains a library and museum.
The association’s greatest legacy of the twentieth century was its work for the passage of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, which Governor Winthrop Rockefeller signed into law on February 14, 1967. Since then, it has successfully prevented major modification of this historic legislation.
In 2009, there were 135 newspaper members of the association representing ninety-nine percent of the newspapers published in the state.
For additional information:Allsopp, Frederick W. History of the Arkansas Press for a Hundred Years and More. Little Rock: Parke-Harper Publishing Co., 1922.
Arkansas Press Association. http://www.arkansaspress.org/ (accessed May 11, 2009).
Dougan, Michael B. Community Diaries: Arkansas Newspapering, 1819–2002. Little Rock: August House, 2003.
Harper, Clio. History of the Arkansas Press Association. Little Rock: Parke-Harper Company, 1930.
Dick E. BrowningMaumelle, Arkansas
Last Updated 6/9/2016
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