Journalist Roy Reed to Lecture on History of Arkansas Gazette

Monday, April 20, 2009

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Renowned reporter, writer and teacher Roy Reed will speak on the history of the Arkansas Gazette on April 29 at Giffels Auditorium in Old Main at the University of Arkansas. The program, titled “The Life and Death of the Oldest Newspaper West of the Mississippi,” will begin with a reception at 3 p.m., followed by a lecture at 3:30 and a book signing immediately thereafter. Reed’s latest book, Looking Back at the Arkansas Gazette: An Oral History, was recently published by the University of Arkansas Press and will be available for purchase. The program, co-sponsored by the special collections department of the University of Arkansas Libraries, the University of Arkansas Press and the university’s Walter J. Lemke department of journalism, is free and open to the public.

Reed began work as a reporter for the Arkansas Gazette in 1956. He was hired by the New York Times in 1965, where he covered the civil rights movement, including the historic Freedom March to the Alabama state capitol in Montgomery. He said that reporting on the civil rights movement in 1965-1966 produced “two of the most exciting years” of his working life. In 1969 he opened a Times bureau in New Orleans, where he reported on the rapid social, political and economic changes in the South and other parts of the nation. After a stint at the Times’s London bureau in the mid-1970s, Reed returned to Arkansas and taught journalism for 16 years at the University of Arkansas journalism department. After retiring from teaching, he continued to write books and occasional pieces for newspapers and magazines. In addition to his history of the Gazette, Reed is the author of Looking for Hogeye (1986), a collection of essays about the South, and Faubus: The Life and Times of an American Prodigal (1997), which was a New York Times Notable Book for 1997.

Considered one of the greatest newspapers in the country, the Arkansas Gazette was Arkansas’ first newspaper and the oldest surviving newspaper west of the Mississippi River when the paper was closed and sold in 1992. It was established in 1819, 17 years before Arkansas became a state. The Gazette was known for its liberal and progressive stance in a conservative Southern state. It was inextricably linked with the state’s history, especially in its anti-segregation position and criticism of Gov. Orval Faubus during the Little Rock Central High School integration crisis.

Reed collected interviews with Gazette editors, reporters and staffers for the David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History, which is a unit of the Libraries’ special collections department. Interviews from the Gazette oral history project can be found online at http://libinfo.uark.edu/SpecialCollections/pryorcenter. Reed compiled and edited these interviews into the book. Jack Nelson, retired Washington bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, described the book as “fascinating reading with superb editing and commentary by Roy Reed, laced with telling and often humorous anecdotes about a period when folks still talked seriously about newspapers having souls.”

Tom W. Dillard, an Arkansas historian and head of the special collections department, observed, “The Arkansas Gazette was throughout its long life the newspaper of record for Arkansas. Not only did the Gazette give Arkansans a first-rate newspaper, it was a nationally significant training ground for journalists who went on to careers at newspapers around the world. Roy Reed’s expertise in interviewing people – his ability to elicit information from the most frail memories – makes him the ‘Studs Terkel’ of Arkansas history.”

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