March 2, 2021

Ashley Wimberley is executive director of the Arkansas Press Association, which has 100 member newspapers. Although there were various cutbacks, the Paycheck Protection Program saved a number of newspapers from a deeper impact. In a rural state with sporadic access to broadband internet, newspaper publishers and owners understand the value and importance of a printed newspaper, she said.

The pandemic gave rise to creativity as Arkansas newspapers began experimenting with ideas like kids’ pages and matching advertising programs while still trying to keep government transparent. The state association revamped its website to provide constant pandemic updates to its members.

“I think more than anything right now journalists just need thanks. They need a thank you,” Wimberley said. “And so I would just like to say thank you, you know, for working so hard during this pandemic.”

Listen to the oral history interview:

Read the transcript.

See the Arkansas Press Association’s newsletter from April 2, 2020.

See more from The Essential Workers, an oral history project tracking the experiences of locally owned newspapers in Mid-America during the pandemic.

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Teri Finneman is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Kansas. She previously worked as a print journalist and multimedia correspondent covering state…
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