Dr. Boozman's Check-up

Mr./Madam President, 

Newspapers have played a vital role in our country’s history of public discourse, increasing our knowledge and awareness about what takes place around us. 

The stories they print keep us informed, while building a sense of community and regional identity. 

Newspapers drive political debates and set the agenda, helping us make sense of the issues impacting our world.

As one of the oldest continuously published newspapers west of the Mississippi, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has been a resource of information that keeps readers connected to community, the state and our nation for 200 years.

In 1819, William E. Woodruff published the first edition of the Arkansas Gazette, the Arkansas Territory’s first newspaper. 

There was no shortage of news to print in those days. During its early years, the publication encouraged settlement to the region, shared news of national importance and promoted statehood.  

For generations this publication has been a primary source of reliable and comprehensive news that has shaped the way Arkansans view the world. 

It has consistently challenged the status quo and examined the decisions of elected leaders while pursuing transparency and accountability.

The work the Gazette produced often resulted in positive change in the Natural State. 

In 1957, the newspaper opposed Governor Orval Faubus’ decision to prevent integration of Little Rock Central High School.

For its reporting on the struggles of integration, the Gazette earned two Pulitzer Prizes -- one for meritorious public service and the other awarded to its executive editor, Harry Ashmore, for editorial writing, marking the first time a newspaper had won two Pulitzer Prizes in the same year.

The paper and its spirited competitor, the Arkansas Democrat, contended for readers and advertisers for decades. 

In 1991, the Gazette was sold to the owners of the Arkansas Democrat who then launched the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the only statewide newspaper that Arkansans read today.

The importance of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in today’s media landscape can’t be overstated. In some cases, it is the sole source of news for many small towns in Arkansans as local newspapers continue to cease operations, especially those serving in rural areas. 

Under the leadership of Walter Hussman Jr., the Democrat-Gazette is navigating this challenging industry landscape and creating opportunities to keep readers informed while keeping costs manageable.

Hussman and his team are rethinking how and what news they deliver to readers as well as how subscribers can and like to consume it. 

To cut printing and transportation costs and combat declining advertisement revenue, the paper is now using iPads to maintain subscribers and continue providing this valuable, not-easily replaced service to the community. 

In an interview earlier this year about his efforts at the Democrat-Gazette, Hussman noted his view that the print model is not sustainable. 

But he voiced his commitment to finding a solution that will fill the void because, as he says, society and our democracy will be impeded if we don’t have newspapers. 

Throughout periods of change, Hussman and the newspaper he owns continue to believe in the critical role that news gathering and reporting plays in informing the public. 

Every day, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the other publications owned by the Hussman family publish a statement of core values that include “objectivity, impartiality, integrity and truth-seeking.” 

This clear, sensible mantra consistently helps guide the work done by the reporters and editors in the paper’s newsroom.

Journalism is a pillar of democracy. Our founders understood the importance of a free press and included protections in the First Amendment that safeguard and ensure the ability of reporters and the publications they write for to hold the powerful to account. 

Earlier this year, I was proud to support the World Press Freedom Day resolution and recognize the sacrifices journalists around the world make in their effort to report the truth. 

We must continue to promote a free and open press in the United States and around the globe. 

In today’s climate, we all share responsibility for acknowledging the value and necessity of press freedom while at the same time not shrinking away from appropriate scrutiny and fair criticism. 

The health and well-being of our society and civic life depends on striking the right balance in this regard.

For 200 years, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has kept individuals informed about moments and events of significance in Arkansas, our country and the world. 

I congratulate the newspaper’s leaders and staff for pursuing facts and accountability as they have created and sustained the publication as a responsible and reliable source of information.