The new editor of the Baxter Bulletin in Mountain Home is named Richard — but he is hardly new, and nobody calls him Richard.
“Not even my mama calls me Richard,” said Sonny Elliott, who returned in March to lead the newsroom where he started as a teenager and worked for decades before a detour into radio in December 2014.
Sonny was a fitting name when Elliott started at the Bulletin as a 17-year-old. “I went full-time as a sports writer at 19,” he said, before becoming sports editor in 1993, barely into his 20s. He kept the job for more than 20 years, and then became news director at KTLO, a Mountain Home radio station.
But the newspaper office at Sixth and Hickory beckoned.
“It does feel like coming home,” said Elliott, a Calico Rock (Izard County) native who moved to Mountain Home at 12 and played football for the Bombers at Mountain Home High, where he graduated in 1989. “Things here still look the same, and three of the newsroom people I worked with are still around. Everything is friendly and welcoming.”
But these are leaner times in traditional media, a challenge that Elliott embraces. Early in his career the daily had 13 or 14 newsroom workers, but now it is getting by with three — not counting Elliott himself, though he is hiring two new staffers.
The Bulletin is the only Arkansas paper owned by publicly traded Gannett Co. Inc., which bought the storied Arkansas Gazette and owned it for about five years before it was shut down in October 1991.
“The key in the modern environment is to get talented people who can do more than one thing,” said Elliott, who enjoys life in the Ozarks with his wife and 11-year-old stepson, projected as a future lineman for the Bombers.
Elliott’s goal is to get the Bulletin’s circulation of about 6,700 up to around 10,000. “To build it up, I want people to know the door is open, and that this is their paper. Come on in, talk to us. Tell us what’s happening out there. I think that it will help that I’m a local.”
And about that name, Sonny? “My mother had a brother named Richard, known as Rick, and my father was named Richard, and my mom didn’t want a ‘Junior.’ So I’ve always been grateful I wasn’t born in Texas, or I might have been Bubba.”