The Arkansas Catholic is the official newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock. It began publishing in 1911 as the Southern Guardian at the request of Bishop John B. Morris with Monsignor John Michael Lucey as editor. Bishop Morris intended the newspaper to be the “official organ” of the Catholic Diocese for the 22,000 Roman Catholics then living in the state at the time. The newspaper began as a weekly eight-page broadside newspaper with an annual subscription rate of $1.50. It was renamed the Guardian when “Southern” was dropped from the title in 1915. In 1986, the newspaper became the Arkansas Catholic. The paper has been associated with the Catholic News Service since 1923.
Editorship changed several times over the years. During the Depression era, the newspaper suffered financial losses but continued to be published. Monsignor Thomas Prendergast became the business manager in 1935 and led the newspaper for more than twenty-three years, setting up a board of directors as well as a full-time print shop, though it closed in 1966.
The first location of the office was at 4th and Center in Little Rock (Pulaski County). In 1919, it moved to West 2nd, and in 1968 it moved to its current location at St. John’s Seminary. To defray the costs of production, the staff opened a Catholic gift shop in 1950. Edward Lipsmeyer bought the shop from the diocese in 1966, and his son ran the business until it closed in 2017.
When Monsignor Prendergast left in 1959, William O’Donnell, a newspaper editor from New Jersey, became the first lay editor. Under his management, the paper went from a broadside newspaper to a smaller format in 1961. In 1975, local news was eliminated and the editorial page was reinstated.
Editor O’Donnell retired in 1985, and Father Joseph Conyard became managing editor, along with Karl Christ in charge of operations. In 1986, the newspaper was redesigned with a new format, typeface, and column width. At this time, subscriptions numbered approximately 13,400 families.
Staff changes in 1988–1989 included Father Albert Schneider as managing editor and Deborah Halter as the first woman to serve as editor. Monsignor Francis I. Malone joined the staff in 1994 when Father Schneider resigned. The paper ceased having a priest on staff, instead using priests as theological consultants.
In 2003, four-color photos and artworks were added to the design. The newspaper also began publishing a yearly directory of priests, schools, churches, etc., in the diocese as well as a biennial business directory. A website was launched in 2004, and book publishing was added in 2005.
During the paper’s centennial in 2011, a history of the newspaper and articles from the early years were added to the archives. Nearly every volume from 1911 to 2001 became available online. In 2017, the newspaper’s publishing schedule was forty-six issues per year, Malea Hargett was the editor, and the publisher was Bishop Anthony B. Taylor.
For additional information:
Arkansas Catholic. http://www.arkansas-catholic.org (accessed December 7, 2017).
Newspaper Archive of Arkansas Catholic. http://arc.stparchive.com (accessed December 7, 2017).
Mary Ann Stafford
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