Flashbacks of Arkansas Business' First 30 Years (Editor's Note)

This is part of Arkansas Business' 30th anniversary issue. You can access the digital edition for free here. And you can see all the stories from our special edition here.

To celebrate Arkansas Business’ 30th anniversary, the staff decided to pull out and reprint some of the stories that we felt were the most important, the most interesting and the most fun. As I was trolling through bound volumes in search of just the right stories — a daunting task that I’m sure we performed imperfectly — a full-page ad placed by the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce slapped me in the face. I pulled out my smartphone and snapped an 8-megapixel photo of the ad and immediately shared it on Twitter and Facebook.

This, I pointed out, is how Hot Springs marketed its meeting facilities to a business audience in 1985: a Tom Selleck lookalike with chest hair like a bath mat relaxing in a hot tub in the company of three wine-sipping women in swimsuits. It’s no wonder my mother was horrified when, in 1988, I told her I was being sent to my very first professional conference.

My picture was well received on Twitter, with retweets from D.C. to California. There were few, even in Arkansas, who would have bet in March 1985 that Gov. Bill Clinton would be sworn in as president of the United States less than eight years later and make his hometown of Hot Springs more famous than Al Capone ever did. There might have been even fewer who would have bet in 1985 that Arkansas Business, then finishing up its first full year of biweekly publication, would be around to mark its 30th anniversary. After all, there was a full-blown newspaper war going on already.

A lot of things have changed in the past three decades, many of them for the better. In October 1990, Arkansas Business switched to weekly publication. Better technology has radically improved what we can do on the printed pages of Arkansas Business. Our design is better; our paper stock is better; we have color ink on every page. The ads are better (and classier).

For almost half of Arkansas Business’ existence, since 2000, we have been able to augment our award-winning print publication with daily e-newsletters and a website on which we post developments as they happen. To engage our readers only once every two weeks, or even only once a week, seems as painfully retro as that macho hot-tub guy’s curly perm and luxurious mustache.

But what Arkansas Business is and what it does have not changed very much. Arkansas Business is still “reporting exclusively on the state economic scene with business executives as its readership,” to quote an introductory article in the first issue, dated March 19, 1984. And that’s what this 30th anniversary issue sets out to remind you: that, through the years, Arkansas Business has stuck to its mission of providing its readers with the most revealing, most memorable, most important business news available in Arkansas.

And, in tribute to that history, we also bring you some brand new portraits by photographer Andrew Kilgore, including mine on this page.

I can’t say what Arkansas Business will look like in another 30 years. Maybe by then print really will be dead, as I’ve been hearing for the past 20 years. By then, today’s technology — the cloud! 3D printing! — will certainly seem as quaint as my favorite headline from 1984: “A celluphone in every car?”

But in 2044, when this old lady will be kicked back someplace, maybe in a hot tub in Hot Springs, someone will still need to keep a watchful eye on business developments in our state. I like to think that will be the staff of Arkansas Business.

Gwen Moritz