Each month, Arkansas Money & Politics profiles three professional associations to explore the business, industry, governmental and not-for-profit agencies impacting law, commerce and goodwill across the state. The magazine tells their stories to give readers a better understanding of who they are, where they stand and the positions they are backing.
Arkansas Press Association
Founded in 1873, the Arkansas Press Association (APA) is the oldest professional association in the state. The APA serves more than 250 members that include newspapers, suppliers, manufacturers, educators, media organizations and individuals.
The APA, whose motto is “Free Press, Free People,” provides its members with the information and education to allow them to grow and compete within the market.
“In unity, there’s strength, and the APA is a strong force in education, policy-making and marketing for the newspaper industry,” says Ashley Wimberly, the group’s executive director.
Members of the association have access to advertising and circulation conferences as well as many other seminars and workshops throughout the year. The association also issues press identification cards to working journalists and hosts networking events for members. The APA works hard to not only aide in the industry but also to acknowledge the talent in journalism in Arkansas.
“Our annual Better Newspaper Advertising and Editorial awards for APA members recognize the best talent in the field of journalism in Arkansas,” she says.
Print media is sometimes referred to as a dying industry, but more than 10,000 Arkansans work in the industry, serving the public every day. Reporting from good journalists is what holds our nation together, according to Wimberly.
“As stewards of democracy,” she says, “our newspapers are the watchdogs that make sure that our tax money is spent wisely and efficiently so our state remains attractive to business and industry and weathers economic downturns.”
Wimberly adds that the association has spent the last few years fighting the perception that all news is “fake news.”
“Frankly,” she says, “for APA member newspapers, the agenda is the right one: ‘To provide a community service and inform readers about what’s going on in their communities.’”
In addition to combating the “fake news” crisis, the APA is focused on the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, one of the best open records and open meetings laws in the country, according to Wimberly. She states, “As champions of transparency, we remind the legislature about the centuries-old custom of publishing public notices.”
As for what comes next for the media industry, Wimberly sees a time of transition. “Arkansas newspapers are exploring the business models that best fit their needs,” she says, “and for most it’s a mix of print and digital that has been and will continue to be successful. I’m encouraged by the innovative spirit of APA members who are always looking for ways to improve their product and serve their community.”