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Henderson State University archive

The Oracle student edition has been in circulation for over 100 years.

In case you didn’t know, Arkadelphia has a newspaper. It’s called the Oracle: Community Edition, and here is how we got here.

The Arkadelphia Dispatch was founded in 2018 by editor Bill Sutley and publisher John Robert Schirmer after the long-running Daily Siftings Herald was bought out and closed by GateHouse Media. Sutley ran the weekly paper until he retired in April 2019. To keep the Dispatch going, Schirmer reached out to the Arkansas Press Association for help. APA director Ashley Wimberely connected HSU media lecturer and Oracle adviser Steve Listopad with Schirmer.

After a short search, HSU graduate student Pete Tubbs took over Sutley’s position as editor of The Dispatch in May 2020. With Tubbs’ appointment, the paper moved its office and production to The Oracle student newspaper offices on HSU campus.

In February 2021, Schirmer determined he needed to step away from the Dispatch as well, so the short-lived weekly was closed in the Spring of 2020. And that’s just the beginning of the story.

During it’s time run by Tubbs, The Dispatch was an independent news agency that collaborated with students at OBU and Henderson to provide coverage of the community. Through this opportunity, students at both universities were able to learn about all aspects of working for a real news organization.

But Henderson already had a student newspaper, The Oracle, which ran its first issue October 6, 1908. The then bi-monthly paper has grown quite a bit throughout the years into what it is today. The student paper is currently a twice-monthly publication with high quality coverage of all things Henderson complete with an award-winning website.

When the decision came to shut down the Dispatch, Listopad and Tubbs created a new edition of The Oracle – The Oracle:Community Edition (CE). The new paper utilized the same production process and staffing of students and volunteers and that The Dispatch used in its final year. The transition from the Dispatch to the Oracle: CE was seamless, and printing and distribution went uninterrupted. The Oracle: CE (formerly The Arkadelphia Dispatch) was now entirely produced by student journalists and community volunteers.

That brings us up to date. We are now on our 22nd issue of The Oracle: CE. We distribute 450 print copies in and around Arkadelphia. We publish our stories, breaking news, and multimedia reporting on our website – www.hsuoracle.com. We also distribute our content through social media. We began running a weekly broadcast news update this summer, and you can watch that at https://www.youtube.com/user/hsutv. And we are far from done expanding and evolving.

Recently, there was an editorial released by another Clark county newspaper asking “Where else will you find Clark County news?” The writer of this piece erroneously claimed that his was the “only newspaper being published in Clark County.”

This is not only untrue, but it’s an insult to us and to their readers.

We here at the Oracle: CE believe in competition. It’s what breeds innovation and it has made our country the best place to live on planet Earth. That being said, we do not believe in lying to the readers that depend on you for accurate and reliable fact-based reporting.
When journalism suffers, so do we all. Our very freedoms depend on the future of journalism and when someone attacks it for personal gain, we cannot stand by and let it happen.

As with any industry, we are called to adapt or die. The internet age has been here long enough now that we cannot use it as an excuse for our papers going extinct. When a paper is run effectively, the internet can be the best tool for expanding their audience and reach.

It’s a miracle of modern technology that I can read articles that were posted today from publications in Chicago, London, Jerusalem, Tokyo and all over the world.

Our goal at the Oracle: CE is to provide the best news product possible for Arkadelphia and Clark County. We aim to provide the very best coverage of what matters most to locals. We will consistently cover sports at Arkadelphia High School and other surrounding schools as well as the two universities.

The word “oracle” comes from the Latin word ōrāre, a verb which means “to speak.” As long as we are here, that’s what we’ll do. We will speak for, to, and about the greater Arkadelphia area. We will speak about important topics and we will exercise our first amendment rights to speak even when it gets tough.

The Oracle: CE can be counted on to provide you with important weekly news. We don’t take summer breaks. We don’t take off for holidays. We’re here reporting on our community for the long haul.

We couldn’t have come as far as we have without help from the Arkansas Press Association, the Arkansas Newspaper Foundation, John Robert Schirmer, Bill Sutley, and many others who believed in The Dispatch and now believe in us. We hope that we can live up to your vision of staving off a news desert in our community and building a new model of community journalism.