Forget the hocus-pocus

By Tammy Curtis Oct18,2023
Tammy Curtis, Publisher
Tammy Curtis

Tammy Curtis, Publisher

We all love a good magic show, smoke and mirrors and slights of hands that make the impossible seem possible. We clap in amazement at the abracadabra – but what if we didn’t know we were the object of the illusion? Recently, a corporately owned newspaper in our area has been dealing out more than its fair share of hocus-pocus.  

Most take for granted the news within our pages and never give a second thought about the time it takes to research, interview, compose, proof, correct and paginate that comes with creating a viable news story and publishing a newspaper. They want it free because its free on social media. 

You get what you pay for.  No accountability or ethic requirements makes anyone a reporter. But, how viable is that news? What differentiates it from an opinion page or a bathroom wall? NOTHING! 

To most, news just appears like a rabbit popping out of a hat. While the average reader doesn’t know the difference between submitted copy and hard news, it is easy to see how corporate papers claims of carrying more news based solely on the number of pages can be mistaken as more actual news when they opt to byline submitted press releases and court documents. 

We all want to spend our hard earned money the best way possible in promoting our businesses as well as placing trust in the newspaper that we know isn’t scared to bring us the truth we deserve. 

Many say, “why read a newspaper, we have Facebook and television and radio?” Let me explain.  Radio and television have a brief moment to tell a story, providing very few vital details …basically like a headline in a newspaper. (Rember that song Dirty Laundry?) We like to utilize every square inch of our paper. We treat it as prime real estate to fill with viable content for our readers. We want to fully explain the questions we know our readers have, the who, what, when, why and how of items that peak their interests. As a paper, we also offer digital options for those who do not care about holding a hard copy in their hands, yet many still do. This is our way of adapting to a changing market of readers. 

We want them to be able to see the subjects in the pictures clearly and work hard to edit photos for clarity. In 20 years we want their grandchildren to see their photos in memory books. In short, we take preserving history seriously. We never stoop to making a photo extremely large for the sake of filling a page to create the illusion they are getting more news. Magicians create illusions by smoke and mirrors. We are not magicians. We don’t have to be nor do we intend to be. 

That is exactly what one locally, corporate out of state owned newspaper has done in its recent claims to bring 16 pages of news each week. Ask yourself kind readers, could that news be more condensed by running normal sized newspaper photos? Could it be reduced by less use of fluff fillers that are little more than place holders identifying the corporation multiple times? Could the same content fit into 8-12 pages?  How much NEWS are you actually getting? Is it worth the extra print cost just to make the smoke and mirrors claim be “true”? Maybe, but for small locally owned papers, we don’t have deep corporate pockets, we depend on our hard work to pay the bills, not a hedge fund account. 

Here at SRC we will always choose quality over quantity and work hard to bring a large variety of real, hard news stories and features each week and present them to you in a visually appealing way. We are reality based. That is why last year we were the only small weekly subscription paper in the state that went up to a medium, because we don’t attempt pull the wool over the eyes of our readers who invest in our paper. We grow because we have the faith and support of the community we serve. 

Our staff is trained with over 20 years experience in layout,  how to compose effective stories and follow leads, verifying each claim with documentation and real sources. We want to be the best we can be to you. We are not a hedge fund creation, but a real local business run by people who have invested their lives in this community and raised their children here. We bank here, we shop here, we buy houses here, our grand children go to school here.  We know our community, we know generations of the fine folks who live here, but most of all …We genuinely care about our community and have a stake in it.  Providing news of all kinds is our top priority. We don’t have a bottom line to meet financially, many times we barely pay the expenses, but the return for the ink that runs through our veins is realized every week when our readers comment or thank us for our coverage. 

We don’t have to try to tell our readers how long we have been in business, in fact the local paper that is claiming to expand is simply pooling their resources to prevent losing more revenue. This has been obvious for months in their many pages of filler in the direct mailed shopper. That is why the claim to have had one of their merged papers published in Cherokee Village in Sharp County since 1955 is yet another smoke show. That is absolutely not true. It is simply a ploy to imply they are more trustworthy due to their alleged longevity of existence and publication in Sharp County. The fact is the newspaper wasn’t actually a legal newspaper, but a quarterly newsletter for residents and newcomers in its early years. In 1991, David Cox purchased the paper. It has been owned by at least three corporate media groups since, but has not been published in Cherokee Village, or Sharp County since moving to Salem in 2001 after being purchased by Rust Communications. None of the multiple corporate owners, have been based in Arkansas. 

This is a prime example of why folks don’t trust the media. We fall under an umbrella with those who lack the accountability for truth and facts that we take seriously, like social “media” and many other forms of corporately owned news agencies who answer to those who spend money with them. 

When the very entity that is tasked with upholding the truth that was bestowed upon them by the First Amendment’s Freedom of Press fails them, trust for media wavers. When folks lose faith, it is the locally owned newspaper’s job is to restore it by providing truth consistently, no matter whose feelings it may hurt, not by blowing smoke at them. By lying to readers in an attempt to appear to be stronger because of the alleged years in business  and number of pages is yet another smoke and mirrors attempt to hide the real reason the papers have combined into one. Will the next step be to combine the numbers of both subscriptions into one and claim to be largest subscription based paper in Sharp County? I suspect so. Back to the ole smoke and mirrors again. 

At the SRC we have been in business for only 12 years, seven under the current ownership. What we have accomplished in that time is not something we, alone can take credit for. We have been the largest subscription based newspaper in Sharp County for the last four years. It has happened due to the faith our readers and advertisers have placed in us to always tell them the  truth. We have done so consistently. We haven’t strayed away from covering hard topics due to the potential revenue loss a story might bring if it steps on the toes of an advertiser. Few, if any, corporate papers can honestly claim that, not excluding the other “local” paper. 

We have increased our subscriptions every year, despite a declining market for many corporate papers who are also being forced to close their doors or merge. We have moved from a small weekly to a medium weekly classification.

135 Arkansas Press Awards have been brought back to Sharp County since 2017 in every category, including every type of news,  best front page six times, best graphic design several times, and the prestigious E.F.  Stone Award for Investigative Journalism – an award only given to one newspaper each year. This is one the  staff of largest paper in the state usually wins. Three investigative journalism first place awards also lend to the proof we care about our people and if they are wronged we get to the bottom of it and hold those responsible accountable. 

This is evidenced by the readers reactions to an outrageous attempt to reappraise property that led to the formation of a WatchDog group, and a subsequent lawsuit against Cherokee Village SID and the city that were won in court, giving the rights back to the people.  Also, news coverage prompted residents to act at the poles, with the nearly complete replacement of a sitting city council and mayor in Hardy a few years ago. This could not have been accomplished by a newspaper who was afraid of anyone or, anyone’s pocketbook potential.  We have also won dozens of advertising awards for our in-house built ads.

These are just examples of how we are trusted to promote our customers locally. We do no outsource our valuable customers ad design work to an overseas company like corporately owned papers. We know our customers personally.

 Don’t allow smoke and mirrors, false claims, large font and pictures help you swallow the illusion they are creating. Remember, always choose quality over quantity, and locally owned over corporate. Now more than ever, our local tax dollars need to stay in our community, where we work, live, shop, eat and go to school. Don’t send them out of America or to fill the pockets of a New Jersey based company.

Once the smoke fades and the rabbit is long out of the hat, the SRC will continue to provide you the most reliable, up to the minute news every week as we have done for 12 years. 

Through your continually growing support, we will for many years to come. So, put the rabbit back in the hat and don’t allow a software company turned media giant with deep pockets that was only established in 2020, to smoke you out. We will continue to protect your rights, stand before legislature and fight to insure laws that are designed to muddy the transparency of government are properly fought against. 

 To us, you are more than a bottom line. We implore you to forget the hocus-pocus, our community will always be our only focus. 

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