Channing Barker earned degrees in broadcast journalism and political science from the University of Arkansas in 2012. NBC affiliate KNWA-TV in Fayetteville had already hired her as a weekend producer earlier that year. She transitioned quickly to a job in front of the camera and eventually hosted the station’s morning news show in 2014.
A Tulsa, Okla., native, Barker spent five years at KNWA until taking her current job in Benton County, the second-most populated of the state’s 75 counties.
“It wasn’t that I wanted to leave [KNWA]. I wanted to expand my horizons,” Barker said.
Barker is the county’s first communications director and one of just two county government communications directors in Arkansas, with Pulaski being the other. She works closely with County Judge Barry Moehring and other administrators on better communicating information to constituents. That includes government employees and the public.
The job is different this year because of the pandemic. Barker works across county lines, notably with the Northwest Arkansas COVID-19 Task Force.
Barker is recognizable as an emcee at local events and supports numerous charitable causes and nonprofits. Promoting awareness and raising money for multiple sclerosis research, though, is where her passion lies. She was diagnosed with the disease in 2006.
In 2015, President Barack Obama celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act at the White House. Barker was in attendance.
“That was a monumental trip in my life,” she said.
Barker serves on the services advisory committee for the National MS Society and was previously the organization’s Arkansas representative for its advocacy work in the state.