FORT SMITH – The owners of Talk Business & Politics and The City Wire have agreed to merge their two media companies into a new entity that will become a statewide platform providing reporting and analysis on business and political news.
The new company, Natural State Media will be based in Fort Smith, and will focus coverage on business and political news in Northwest Arkansas, the Fort Smith metro, central Arkansas, Northeast Arkansas and statewide. Owners of the company are Roby Brock, with Talk Business & Politics; Patricia Brown, an owner of TCW Media; Chester Koprovic, an owner of TCW Media; Michael Tilley, with The City Wire and a TCW Media owner; and Bennie Westphal, an owner of TCW Media.
With the merger, readers of Talk Business & Politics and The City Wire will see a continued focus on local coverage and also will have access to more business and political news from around the state. The City Wire website and the Talk Business & Politics website will continue to operate for several more weeks as they did prior to the merger. A new website reflecting a combined company is expected to launch in early November. Talk Business & Politics will be the primary brand of the new website.
Brock will be publisher and CEO of Natural State Media, and oversee daily management and sales. He will continue to host Talk Business & Politics on TV and radio. Tilley will work as vice president and executive editor and focus on content generation and management, to include coordinating with reporters and freelancers. Daelene Brown, the business manager for TCW Media, will serve as business manager of Natural State Media.
“The two companies have been moving toward this, and with leadership from Brock and Tilley we are excited about the synergies possible with a combined operation,” said Koprovic, who is also a member of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.
Westphal, who operates energy and real estate development companies, said Talk Business & Politics and The City Wire built good reputations within Arkansas’ business and political circles.
“I believe The City Wire and Talk Business & Politics developed a great niche with their coverage and have a great following. This is where media is moving, toward specialized, quality coverage,” Westphal said.
The new company will push its unique content via television, website, radio, print, podcasts, e-mail and mobile delivery, Brock said. He also emphasized that news coverage will be enhanced in all regions.
“We have thousands of loyal readers and followers, and they should know that the quality and reach of content will continue, and in many cases be improved with more coverage or an increase in focus on special areas of the Arkansas economy,” Brock said.
One content area that will change is coverage of social events. Tilley said the new company will focus more reporting resources on business and political news.
“When we look at our story traffic and consider our reader feedback, it’s abundantly evident that our readers want us to pay more attention to business and political news,” Tilley said.
ABOUT THE MANAGEMENT
Roby Brock has served as editor-in-chief and host of Talk Business & Politics, a multi-media news organization focusing on business and politics in Arkansas. In business for 16 years, more than 2,000 business and political leaders have been interviewed by Brock.
He is the host of Talk Business & Politics, which airs Sunday mornings at 9:30 a.m. on KATV Channel 7. Brock also moderates a statewide radio program that airs on NPR affiliates statewide.
In addition to his television and radio programs and active web site, TalkBusiness.net, Brock provides reports for newspapers across the state.
He is publisher and editor-in-chief of Talk Business & Politics, a statewide magazine publication distributed to 12,000 business and political leaders throughout Arkansas.
Brock has an extensive background in private enterprise and the public arena, having started and managed several small businesses. He has also served on the staff of the Governor of Arkansas, headed a state agency, and worked behind the scenes in scores of political and public affairs campaigns.
As the founder and president of River Rock Communications, which produced Talk Business & Politics, Brock was the 2000 winner of a coveted Society of Professional Journalists award for his World War II documentary, "Survivors." In 2009, the U.S. Small Business Administration presented Brock with its "Small Business Journalist of the Year" award.
Brock is a graduate of Hendrix College.
Michael Tilley has for the past almost eight years been the co-owner and managing editor of The City Wire, a media company covering business, politics and culture in the Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas regions.
Prior to helping relaunch The City Wire in 2008, Tilley was the regional business editor for The Morning News in Northwest Arkansas and the Times Record in Fort Smith between November 2000 and June 2008. He managed the business sections of both papers, which were then owned by Stephens Media. The business sections won numerous awards during that time, including first place awards for larger dailies business reporting in Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Tilley also worked as vice president of the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce between September 1994 and October 2000. There, he gained experience about the business community in the state, and worked in economic and tourism development. His media experience also includes being a business reporter in Fort Smith and political reporter in Little Rock for Donrey Media Group from August 1992 to September 1994.
Tilley served as a hospital corpsman in the U.S. Navy Reserves, and is a graduate of Arkansas Tech University.
Daelene Brown has more than 19 years experience in office and human resource management. She has worked the past three years as manager of daily budget operations of The City Wire which includes the management of an ad server, processing of accounts payable/receivable, and preparation of payroll, advertising contracts, and supervising employees.
Following are other key members of the new company.
Brawner is a journalist with nearly 20 years of experience covering Arkansas. His syndicated columns appear in nine Arkansas newspapers across the state. Brawner writes daily for Talk Business & Politics covering politics, policy and business with particular expertise in education, health care and economic development. A former newspaper reporter and editor, Brawner has also worked in the Governor and Lt. Governor's offices.
Brown formerly served as the business editor for Stephens Media newspapers in Northwest Arkansas, and as business editor and capitol bureau reporter for the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He is a former oil and gas reporter for the Tulsa World, and worked as the U.S. energy correspondent for New York-based Bridge News, which was purchased by Reuters. He also worked as a corporate communications specialist for Fortune 500 companies Verizon Wireless, Alltel Corp. and Transamerica. Brown also is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.
Katherine Daniels has nearly 20 years of sales and marketing experience. She has been with Talk Business & Politics for more than a year. Prior to joining Talk Business & Politics, Daniels held long stints with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the Arkansas Times in sales positions. She is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Kim Souza is a Texas native and earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Texas at Tyler. Souza covered education for the Southwest Times Record (Fort Smith) between 2000 and 2001 before returning to the classroom to teach Spanish and journalism at Fort Smith Christian School, now Union Christian Academy. She moved to Northwest Arkansas in 2005 and has worked as a business reporter for the Morning News and the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. Souza has won more than a dozen state and national awards for her reporting.
Wilkey serves as the Northeast Arkansas correspondent for Talk Business & Politics. A graduate of Arkansas State University and the former Mid-South Community College (now ASU-Mid South), Wilkey has worked in journalism for 15 years covering business, economic development, education, politics and transportation issues. Prior to joining Talk Business Wilkey worked at newspapers in Northeast Arkansas.
Other contributors include Janette Ballman, Larry Brannan, John Brummett, John Burris, Kerri Jackson Case, Michael Cook, Todd Jones, Aric Mitchell, Rex Nelson, Bill Paddack, Rose Ann Pearce, David Potts, Jessica DeLoach Sabin, Frank Scott, Jamie Smith and Jason Tolbert.