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ASHDOWN -- The Little River News in Ashdown stopped publishing last week, but the publisher is hopeful someone else will want to buy the 121-year-old newspaper and continue serving as the county's newspaper of record.

"We hope this is just a little hiccup. We would love to sell it to someone who can keep it operating as the newspaper of record in Little River County. We would love for this to just be a pause in publishing," said publisher and co-owner Mica Wilhite.

She owns the paper with Bob Palmer. They also own the weekly newspaper in Jefferson, Texas, called The Jefferson Jimplecute. The Jimplecute, the fifth-oldest newspaper in Texas, will still publish, Wilhite said.

Subscriptions for the Little River News have been strong, but it has been getting harder to generate revenue, Wilhite said.

"We could keep publishing, but we need a stronger alignment between revenue and cost. We need those to more strongly align," she said.

Wilhite wrote about the suspension in a letter to readers printed in the Nov. 14 edition.

"At this time, I can see that a different solution to publishing the Little River News is a better fit for the county. As such, the Little River News will suspend publication after publishing our Nov. 21 edition in hopes that a new publisher and staff will step forward to resume publication as soon as possible with the Little River News name," Wilhite wrote. "Suspending publication of a weekly newspaper is not an easy decision but it is the responsible business decision."

The staff was on deadline last Wednesday afternoon for its final edition.

"It's the hardest work in the world, but it's fun. And it's been a privilege and responsibility to get the news out to these readers. We're a little sad about it," Wilhite said.

She started at the Little River News on July 16.

"I saw a significant opportunity with a lot of hard work ahead. I determined that we would make as few changes as possible between July and January in order to fully assess the business and advertising market in Little River County," Wilhite wrote.

Wilhite credited the newspaper's "first-class staff," including editor Jessie Smith, who is a Little River County native, for keeping the paper's editorial content strong.

"We are really proud of our staff. They have done a solid job, and we are extremely proud of them," she said.

Janna Smith, director of the Little River County Chamber of Commerce, said the loss of a weekly newspaper affects the entire community.

"We are just really sad to hear about the closure. It's a big part of how people get news and information in Little River County," Smith said. "It's over 100 years old, and you just hate to see something close after all that time."

Smith said when she speaks to groups, older people often ask her to publish Chamber events in the newspaper.

"They want to read it in the paper because they don't do social media," she said.

Smith said the Little River Chamber of Commerce is hopeful another buyer will be interested in the paper at some point in the future.

The Little River News was started in 1898.

"It survived the Great Depression and both world wars," said former owner and editor Jim Williamson.

Williamson and his brother-in-law, the late Gerald Strickland, purchased the Little River News in 1976 from Williamson's uncle W.B. Coley. The Foreman Sun, another paper in Little River County, consolidated with the Little River News in 1975.

Williamson owned the Little River News for 28 years, and was a hands-on editor and photographer the entire time. He then worked for the Texarkana Gazette about 15 years before retiring in May.

He said last Wednesday that he was sad to hear that the Little River News was ceasing publication.

"A community paper is important. We need someone to serve as a watchdog," he said.

Williamson also believes that readers enjoy the lighter side of local journalism, such as high school sports and children's letters to Santa that run before Christmas.

"There have just been a lot of changes to this business," he said.

SundayMonday on 11/27/2019

Print Headline: Newspaper in southwest Arkansas ceases publication after 121 years

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