Arkansas Public Media began in 2015 when KUAR-89.1 FM's general manager, the late Ben Fry, with the help of station reporter and Morning Edition host Sarah Whites-Koditschek, applied for a grant to start a Regional Journalism Collaboration from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
These collaborations may span states — Great Lakes Today ranges from New York to upstate Minnesota, from lakes Ontario to Superior — but more typically are a build out of statewide reporting.
Arkansas is prime for such investment. We sit at or near the bottom in socio-economic and personal health rankings, but we are a growing state with an innovative state health care model (Arkansas Works, nee the "private option"), a diversity of energy generation (most states do not have a nuclear power plant), a growing number of oft-discussed charter schools and declining public school teacher wages (NEA report), and a state government whose taxes and revenue are higher than most U.S. states while our population is lower (32nd).
We in public media — from the five state public stations to the Corporation — believe our Arkansas members want and deserve better journalism.
In 2016, radio stations KUAF-91.3 FM Fayetteville, KASU-91.9 FM Jonesboro, KTXK-91.5 FM Texarkana, and KUAR-89.1 FM Little Rock along with the help of AETN public television (Conway), began executing a nearly $300,000 grant from the Corporation. Four hires were made, and reporting and promotion of the project began.
The Corporation's six-figure grant, while critical and substantial, will seed the project for just about two years. After that, it's incumbent upon our listeners to support the kind of journalism and programming we offer and support us by becoming underwriters or sustaining members of Arkansas Public Media, just as they've adopted their local station.
Increasingly, local news is Arkansas news, and the need for accountability journalism in this state is great.