Jonesboro

Ann Kenda / Arkansas Public Media

A Communications degree student due to graduate this week from Arkansas State University finished off her college journalism career with an interview with Hollywood actor and director Stephen Baldwin filmed at the university's television studio.

“I’m a little nervous,” Destiny Quinn admitted as she paced around, anxiously checking her phone every few minutes for a text from Baldwin, who was running late but had promised her an interview about politics, his acting career and life in general.

Grove Pashley

Next month the state of Arkansas will execute eight of its 33 inmates, in pairs over four evenings and by lethal injection.

For more than 18 years Damien Echols was one of those on death row. He knows all eight men and says Don W. Davis, scheduled to die April 17, "kept me alive." 

Here's his full Arkansas Public Media interview with reporter Ann Kenda in which he talks about the justice of capital punishment, life on death row, life after death row and his wife, Lorri, whom he married while on the block. 

Echols was reached at his home in New York. 

Ann Kenda

Describing it as a game changer for both the state's economy and the future of steel, officials cut the ribbon on a $1.3 billion "flex mill" in Osceola Wednesday.  The mill has been online for almost a year, though January was the facility's first at full capacity. Officials say it’s already given Arkansas a place as a leader in the worldwide steel industry.

According to Big River Steel CEO David Stickler, the mill employs some 450 people who earn an average of $75,000 per year (that number may rise to $90,000).  Supporters of Big River Steel said those employees can afford houses, cars, goods and services, which bolster the rural economy and create spin-off businesses that serve Big River employees and their families.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who said he supported the Big River Steel project when he was a candidate for the office, said the flex mill  is not just good for northeast Arkansas but for the entire state.  A flex mill combines an integrated mill with a steel mini-mill.

Clayton Hotze

There are many lessons to be learned from one of the most infamous tweets in social media history.

“It was like misogyny, within the warm glow of self-righteousness,” said Welch author and filmmaker Jon Ronson.

Ann Kenda / Arkansas Public Media

Sales tax on soda will go up from 1.5% to 6.5% in Arkansas next year, under a bill signed by Gov. Hutchinson that aims to raise millions for military retiree tax cuts.  The increase is coupled with a tax reduction on the wholesale price for the syrup used by beverage makers, which has advocates for the poor complaining that the higher tax will be paid only by consumers.

The increase comes at a time when soda has largely fallen out of favor with consumers, as they seek healthier alternatives.  PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP) spent its advertising dollars this year on a 30 second ad during the Super Bowl promoting its new LIFEWTR premium bottled water instead of its traditional cola drinks.