For a long time, I always kinda chuckled when I thought about the fact that Arkansas had four or five times the coverage of so-called “society” events than it had of state politics. I mean, we elected a president from Arkansas, had a governor resign and had elected officials go to jail, still with less weekly political coverage than the gown-and-tuxedo crowd.
In reality, the danger of standing between a “Desperate Heights Wife” and a camera was far greater than missing a political scandal. I have a friend who was once a very fine Capitol bureau reporter for the statewide paper. Later in life, she found herself in a far different role as the editor of the paper’s social section. I once asked which was tougher. Her answer? Without a doubt the society section. In the cutthroat world of pictures and captions, there was no room for error. And by error, I mean not realizing that a certain photo shouldn’t have been used because two of the people pictured despise one another. Or a certain caption under a photo didn’t reflect the feeling of importance of the event. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging the good deeds of our citizens, but for as much as we claimed to love politics in the South, we were still a wasteland when it came to coverage.
All we could scrounge up as a state for political analysis (outside of the political/opinion columnist) was a once-a-week show on the Arkansas Educational Television Network, Arkansas Week. Artfully moderated by Steve Barnes, the show featured print reporters and editors from around the state. But that was it, 30 minutes once a week. Hardly enough to truly cover the political goings-on. Also, there was a pretty good daily radio show on news/talk radio KARN. Pat Lynch for many years grilled the political movers and shakers every midday for three hours. Great radio but still not enough.
Then my college buddy Roby Brock started a magazine and website called Talk Business. At the time, I thought it was a quaint idea and wondered what Roby would do for a real job later. Fifteen years later, there’s a must-read website with great commentary and political news, video coverage of government meetings and legislative hearings, interviews and newsmaking with power brokers, and now a TV show on KATV called Talk Business and Politics. Roby saw a future in political coverage and made it happen. Then the dam burst.
Max Brantley and the Arkansas Times political blog, Arkansas Blog, launched. I admit it: I check this blog a couple of times a day. I feel like a heroin addict sneaking down to the bad part of town to score smack every time I log on. I disagree with the political slant and the over-the-top bias against conservatives, but I must admit they do a great job of up-to-the-minute coverage on a daily basis. In addition, blogs like Blue Hog Report and The Arkansas Project have actually broken some major political scandal news. The political landscape of Arkansas has been changed by what they’ve printed.
There are two great political TV programs that join Arkansas Week. KARK’s Capitol View, anchored by the best political reporter in Arkansas TV, David Goins, and the aforementioned Talk Business and Politics on KATV. Every Sunday morning you can watch these two back to back. Both provide insightful interviews and some pretty opinionated political commentary. All before you head out to church!
Radio has seen an expansion as well. Two stations are devoted solely to news talk. KARN and newcomer KTHE, which has both Alice Stewart and Dave Elswick focusing on Arkansas politics.
And the dean of Arkansas political columnists, John Brummett, has returned to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A fixture on the Arkansas political scene for many years, his blogging and especially Twitter feed are as important a read as his regular columns, even as misguided as some of his opinions may be.
So, I can safely say for politics in this most important of election seasons, there will be more coverage than in a Pentecostal swimsuit calendar. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)
Link to this article via Arkansas Online