AAN Asks Governor to Restore Arkansas Times to Press List

On April 27, a spokeswoman for Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee told Arkansas Times Editor Max Brantley that the weekly had been dropped from the official press notification e-mail list. “We don’t consider the Arkansas Times a news organization,” she explained. After the Times posted the statement on its blog, it drew attention from other media organizations, and Huckabee posted a long response on the state Web site attacking the Times and Brantley.

Earlier this morning, AAN sent Huckabee the following letter urging the governor to return Arkansas Times to the list.

May 4, 2006

The Honorable Mike Huckabee
Governor’s Office
State Capitol Room 250
Little Rock, Arkansas 72201

Dear Governor Huckabee:

We were dismayed to read your statement yesterday in response to the negative publicity your office has received since it purged Arkansas Times from the e-mail list used to disseminate public information to the media. The statement was littered with misinformation and was clearly intended to divert attention from the real issues raised by your administration’s wrongful decision to ostracize the Times, a member in good standing of our organization.

Contrary to your assertions, the journalists working at the Times are not seeking “special treatment”; they are not asking for “personal notice with every issuance of a press release or public schedule” or “every time (you) conduct interviews with members of the press”; and they are not requesting that you “call them whenever (you) happen to return a phone call from a reporter or invite members of the media to a briefing on a particular issue.”

They are simply asking to be treated the same way that your administration treats other news-gathering organizations that cover the capitol.

The Times — an award-winning weekly newspaper with the fourth largest circulation of all the newspapers in Arkansas — has regularly received e-mail alerts from the governor’s office. These same notifications are provided to other media outlets all over your great state. Your office arbitrarily took the Times off the list last week and has yet to provide a reasonable explanation for that decision.

It is clear from your derogatory comments about the Times and its editor that you disagree with what the paper has written about your administration. Despite your disagreements, however, as a public official you are legally forbidden from blackballing the paper based on its political content.

By coincidence, our annual convention will be held next month in Little Rock. We are hopeful that by the time we arrive you will have taken the high road and put the Arkansas Times back on your official e-mail list.

Kenneth Neill