Sublett to Lead GateHouse Papers in Conway, Clinton, Heber Springs

Sublett to Lead GateHouse Papers in Conway, Clinton, Heber Springs
Kelly Sublett

Kelly Sublett started her first day Monday as publisher of the Log Cabin Democrat at her same old desk, eyeing the better furniture in the previous publisher's office, but determined not to waste a minute in her new mission of leading the 5,000-circulation Conway newspaper and its sister publications in Clinton and Heber Springs.

GateHouse Media, which bought the Log Cabin in August from Morris Communications, named Sublett as its group publisher in a decision reported Monday morning in the paper. In doing so, GateHouse elevated an inside candidate who had served as vice president of audience since 2014.

She waved off some humor about following in the footsteps of Katherine Graham, the legendary Washington Post publisher now being celebrated on the big screen in Steven Spielberg's "The Post."

"So many women charted this course, and I'm honored to be among them on whatever small scale," Sublett told Arkansas Business with a laugh. Born in Monticello but raised in Houston, Sublett said she was "all in" with Gatehouse after weeks of interviews and deliberations on the job. 

Matt Guthrie, the southwest regional vice president of GateHouse, announced Sublett's appointment. 

"I'm truly excited for Kelly," Guthrie said, noting that Sublett will also oversee the Van Buren County Democrat in Clinton (1,600 paid circulation) and the Sun Times in Heber Springs (2,900). "Her love for the newspaper and for Conway made her an obvious choice." 

Sublett's husband is a Faulkner County native and their two children, 4 and 10, attend Conway public schools.

Guthrie noted Sublett's extensive experience in digital news and advertising, saying it will be an asset as the Log Cabin introduces "new products to the community through Thrivehive," a guided marketing platform designed for small businesses.

Before the sale to GateHouse, Sublett and two other women led the Log Cabin: Cynthia Crabb, the controller, and Betsey Barham, vice president of sales. Crabb is now based in Topeka, Kansas, where she also handles financials for GateHouse's Topeka Capital-Journal. Barham will remain atop sales at the Conway property.

"I'll be anchored at the Log Cabin, but getting out to get to know the folks in Heber Springs and Van Buren County," said Sublett, who said discussions about the new job had been going on for several weeks. "Today is literally day one for me, and it's first things first in a new year. Right now I'm in assessment mode, figuring out which roads to take."

One road will be a push to increase circulation. 

"That's part of the mission as Conway and Faulkner County grow, to get out into all the communities we're serving now," she said. "To ask what's driving readership and to get the idea out there that we are all about service. I feel that newspapers and media companies are hubs for everything and anything. We need to ask how we can serve, and take that service forward. I am challenging our communities to communicate with us for needs and services, as well as help us make a difference across the board."

Sublett has a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M and worked as a reporter, copy desk editor, editorial production manager and managing editor at papers in Texas before returning to Arkansas eight years ago. 

"I fell in love with Faulkner County and with Conway immediately upon arrival," she said in her paper's story on her promotion. "I married a true native and planted roots." 

Before joining the Log Cabin, she was a social and digital media director at Arkansas Times and a public affairs officer for the Arkansas Department of Veterans Affairs.

Sublett is well aware of the challenges facing local news businesses. Local advertising revenue has plunged as readers turn to the internet, a trend that GateHouse has exploited by buying up media properties at fractions of their former value.

"Newspapers and multimedia arms of our business need to take a step out of the box," Sublett told Arkansas Business. "The Log Cabin, specifically, has feet on the ground right now heading in that direction. We are going to make an impact in central Arkansas — Conway, Clinton and Heber Springs. There are some collective projects on the horizon for my group of papers that we will begin unrolling to advertisers and readers in the coming months."

Those initiatives, Sublett said, "will reinforce our foundations in those communities, as well as promote our mission for hyper-local news in each of those markets." 

Sublett said she's excited. 

"I really feel like one of big reasons I was chosen is I'm of this community, part of this world," she said. "I have a personal and professional connection."

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