A-State newspaper turns 100 years old

by George Jared ([email protected]) 1,440 views 

The city of Jonesboro had been battered by several pandemics and then came the Great War in 1917. Even as the war came to a close a year later, a new virus known as Spanish Flu began to rampage worldwide.

In the midst of these world events, the agriculture college Aggie established a decade before in Northeast Arkansas’ hub city continued to grow and flourish. One sign of that was the publication of the school’s first newspaper: The Herald was first published Nov. 18, 1921.

The first front page had stories about fall football, the richness of the soil in Northeast Arkansas, and a story about the school’s immediate outlook. Aggie eventually became Arkansas State University, and it recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of its newspaper.

“Journalism matters and for 100 years, The Herald, originally named Aggie Herald, has mattered at A-State,” said Sandra L. Combs, associate professor of multimedia journalism production and faculty adviser. The student-run newspaper has supplied countless photographs, stories, jokes, graphics, advertisements and reports that have become the first draft of history for campus and the surrounding community. It also has trained numerous journalists and communication specialists who have made a difference in recording and reporting the good and bad across campus, throughout the nation and the world.”

The Herald of Arkansas State University is based in the School of Media and Journalism, within the College of Liberal Arts and Communication, following Board of Trustees’ action in Dec. 2018. Dr. Brad Rawlins is the school director and professor of strategic communication.

Former Herald editors include Dr. Dorothy Bland, Dr. Joel Gambill, Gretchen Hunt, Arkansas Business editor Lance Turner and Roy Ockert, who is formerly the editor of the Jonesboro Sun. Gambill spent decades as head of the department.

A new scholarship has been endowed in Gambill’s name to aid future journalism students. Funding for the scholarship was mostly provided by friends and colleagues. Gambill graduated from ASU in 1965 and spent decades working and leading the department.

“I would like to thank all those who helped create this scholarship,” said Gambill. “It makes me warm all over that someone would create a scholarship that assists journalism students in their ASU careers. I would especially like to thank those who contributed to the scholarship.”

Hunt, the longtime editor of the Lawrence County Times-Dispatch, spoke as part of the Gambill Speaker Series during the celebration.

Although The Herald had its beginnings on Nov. 18, 1921, the first issue of The Herald of Arkansas State University was published Jan. 18, 1967, as a special edition featuring one of the biggest stories in the institution’s history. It was the first publication to break the news of the Arkansas General Assembly’s decision to grant university status for then-Arkansas State College, followed by Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller’s bill-signing ceremony.

Ockert and other representatives at the State Capitol journeyed back in a snowstorm, writing articles enroute and finalizing the special edition that night. Ockert, a 1967 graduate went on to serve as editor of three Arkansas daily newspapers and teach at ASU and two other colleges during a distinguished career spanning more than a half century.