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'Their lifeline to the community'

'Their lifeline to the community'

A town comes to grips with loss of its local paper, the Hope Star

September 7th, 2018 by Jim Williamson in Texarkana News

Beckie Moore, executive director of the Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce, discusses the closing of the Hope Star newspaper.

Photo by Jim Williamson /Texarkana Gazette.

The Hope Star's closing its doors will mean more than losing stories and photos, says Beckie Moore, executive director of the Hope-Hempstead County Chamber of Commerce.

"Receiving the news of the Hope Star printing its final paper on Sept. 14 caused our community to be flooded with emotions. Those who grew up in Hope remember the newspaper as their lifeline to the community. Many will recall the daily publications and how excited they were to read about the weekly community 'happenings.' The Hope Star, as with any local paper, was the community welcome mat. You could read the paper and sense that our town mattered," Moore said.

"Now what? I would be remiss if I did not address the fact that the shutdown means a loss of jobs. Before mourning the loss of news, pictures, editorials, sports we must not overlook this fact. People are hurting. We have a responsibility and an opportunity before us to help our neighbors in need," she said.

GateHouse Media LLC, which owns the Hope Star, will also close two of its other Southwest Arkansas newspapers: the Nevada County Picayune and the Arkadelphia Siftings Herald. The Nevada County paper's last edition will go out Wednesday, while the Siftings Herald ceases publication the same day as Hope Star.

While Internet news sites are changing the industry of print journalism, Moore has a reminder.

"The loss of a news source is a great loss no matter how you look at it. Not everyone has a phone or Internet service readily available in order to 'view' online news. For these people, the paper continued to be their community connection, and that will be gone on Sept. 14. We are fortunate to have radio stations in Hope for those who are not receiving online news. Our stations will continue providing the 'hometown connection,' and for that we should be grateful. That being said, there is something to be said about holding print and reading articles while viewing pictures," Moore said.

The chamber relied on the Hope Star to circulate its information for years.

"We sincerely appreciated their services and the 'extras' they provided. The Hope Star created and printed our Relocation & Visitors Guide. They also provided the Watermelon Festival insert, so visitors and locals could see the full list of activities and pictures. The Hope Star printed the chamber's annual meeting report and provided copies for all in attendance. This list could go on and on," she said.

"To all who walked through the doors and worked extremely long hours at 522 W. Third St. for the betterment of our community, we thank you," Moore said.

Others recalled the effect the newspaper had on their lives.

Amy Sweat of McCaskill, Ark., is the site manager at Hope Senior Citizens Center and was surprised about the closings.

"I never subscribed, but I would buy the newspaper and share a copy," Sweat said. "A lot of older people don't know how to get an electronic newspaper. A lot of the older people don't have access to a computer to figure out how to use it. Newspapers in small towns are going out of business. They're just like other small businesses."

Brothers Royce Rogers and Darrell Rogers also heard about the closings.

"We don't take the newspaper. Sometimes a man would bring five or more newspapers to the (Hope Senior Citizens) center, and we would read it. A lot of people looked forward to getting the newspaper," Darrell Rogers said.

Hope Star publishes Wednesdays and Fridays and has a 12-month average paid circulation of 930. Hope has a population of 9,892, according to the Arkansas Press Association's 2018 Media Directory.

"I used to read the newspaper, but I quit after my husband (Johnny B. Hill) died. He died April 9, 2000. We had been married 45 years," said Rosie Hill, who was visiting the senior citizen center on Thursday. "He would get the newspaper and bring it home. I quit after he died. I don't have enough money."

Sharon Caldwell, a co-owner of Tailgaters Cafe in Hope said, "It's sad it has come to this point."

Hempstead County Sheriff James Singleton said the digital age makes it difficult for older people to obtain the newspaper and get information.

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