CAMDEN By PATRIC FLANNIGAN
A newspaper can play a significant role in a small town. Like the papers in the more populated cities, Camden News has an obligation to report on those “big” crime and or city council stories that will often draw attention from people that may not even live in the town where the story occurred. But unlike in the major cities, the Camden News is also sure to capture those heart warming and keeper moments. Items such as the honor roll, lunch menus, or coverage from the local civic clubs that aren’t often found in the bigger publications.
These are the items often labeled as “small” but they have so much meaning to the people that are interested in them. The people are the main reason that the Camden News has achieved the success that it has. Through times both great and difficult, CN has alway adapted and adjusted.
Thats no different than what C.N. is doing now.
Today is a historic day in CN’s 90 year history as today’s edition is the first of its kind - a weekly print edition. However, CN is still far from a “weekly” paper. Perhaps knowing that its readers would demand and deserve more, CN produces digital replica pages six days out of the week.
Basically, more relevant and local content more of the time.
CN’s has a long history of adapting and adjusting that goes all the way back to the very beginning.
In 1929, Clyde Palmer purchased the Camden Evening News from Curtis B. Hurley. Hurley’s paper - like many others - was struggling due to the Great Depression. Under Palmer, the name of the newspaper was changed to The Camden News. Palmer would expand his business purchasing the Texarkana Gazette, The El Dorado News and Times, The Hot Springs New Era and The Hot Springs Sentinel Record.
In 1949, Palmer would sell the Camden News to his son-in-law Walter Hussman Sr.
WEHCO Media, Inc CEO Walter Hussman Jr. shared how his father came about acquiring the Camden News.
Hussman stated that his father and mother, Betty, were both aspiring journalist that met when they were going to college in Missouri. Walter Sr. worked in insurance before getting deeper into the newspaper business. In 1941 Walter Sr headed off to Europe for World War II and worked with his old college roommate Don Reynolds as co-publishers for Yank Magazine for the U.S. troops. Upon his return in 1945, Walter Sr. sought out to own his own newspaper.
“My dad had a 90-day option to buy a paper in Midland, Texas,” Hussman Jr. stated. “He had found some partners that were going to go into business with him and he would own a percentage of the company, but my grandpa - with my mom being his only child from his second marriage - didn’t want to see his daughter move so far away. So he offered to sell Camden News to my dad.”
The city of Camden has been a special place to the Hussman family. Hussman Jr. shared that his sister once asked their father where he had his best memories during his career.
“He said, ‘The best times were in Camden’,” Hussman Jr. stated. “He loved being a newspaper publisher and he loved doing it in Camden. He just loved the community and the people down there. So its always been a special place to all of us.”
Hussman Jr. took time to reflect on some of his funnest memories from his childhood at the Camden News. He talked about how minimum wage was only 25 cents an hour when he was ten-year old and working for his father doing inserts for the CN Progress edition. He recalled going the The Chatterbox and being able to buy a burger, fries and a drink for all under a dollar. He also shared hilarious memories of proofreading the The Stephens Star when he was 14.
After working for Forbes magazine, Hussman Jr would become the acting general manager of the CN during a trying time in the early 70’s.
“The company had grown and there were businesses in Vicksburg Mississippi and all around and it was decided that the company needed an air plane,” Hussman Jr. said. “So we got a plan and the merchants got upset and started an ad boycott because they thought C.N. had bought the plane from overcharging the merchants, when it was really the company that bought the plane.
Hussman Jr. tackled the tough times head-on and established the offset printing that was done in El Dorado and produced quality editions such as a 28-page sports section with long time WEHCO employee and then Ad Manager Paul Smith.
After his time in Camden, Hussman Jr. moved to Hot Springs to become vice president and general manager of the Palmer Newspapers - a division of WEHCO Media.
Then Hussman Jr. would play a key role in the battle between the Arkansas Gazette and the Arkansas Democrat. At the young age of 27, Hussman guided the Arkansas Democrat to success nearly doubling its circulation of 62,000 circulation to 118,000. The Arkansas Democrat would also triple in revenue from 1974-1984. The two rival companies would eventually merge into the Arkansas Democrat Gazette in 1991 when it was purchased by WEHCO.
Hussman is again, fearlessly taking on another challenge, this time with C.N. going digital, especially as reports show there has been a 75-percent decline in U.S. newspaper ad revenues since 2006.
“We know we have to change to be sustainable as a valued source of news for Camden and Ouachita County,” Hussman Jr. stated in a letter that was printed in the Camden News in January. “We also know the inescapable and inherent economics of digital delivery of news and information.”
Hussman Sr once said:
“A newspaper has a number of constituencies. Among those are readers, advertisers, employees, creditors, and stockholders. If a newspaper and its publisher always keep those constituencies in that order: readers first, advertisers second, employees third, creditors fourth, and shareholders last, then the newspaper will do well journalistically and financially, and the interests of all constituencies will be well served.”
With change comes new possibilities, and if the history of the Camden News has proven anything, it’s that it will, indeed, adapt and adjust.