The state’s youngest newspaper publisher is selling his Monroe County publication to the men who saved The World in Helena, Chuck Davis and Andrew Bagley.
Hayden Taylor, who was just 19 when he purchased the assets of the Central Delta Argus-Sun of Brinkley in 2017 and renamed it the Monroe County Herald, has agreed to sell the weekly to Davis and Bagley’s Helena World Chronicle LLC.
No sale price was announced, but Bagley told Arkansas Business on Friday that it was “a good enough price that we think we can make a go of it.” The weekly is the only active newspaper in Monroe County.
Bagley said that in a nod to history, he and Davis had decided to rechristen the paper as the Monroe County Argus. The name harks back to the Brinkley Argus, founded in 1883, and the Monroe County Times, first published in 1877, said Bagley, who also teaches political science and history at Phillips Community College of the University of Arkansas.
“We bought the editorial assets; there was no building,” said Bagley, who was busy Friday in Brinkley preparing leased space for the operation. He’s looking to hire a reporter to be based in Brinkley, while operations like editing and page composition will be transferred to Helena. The Argus’ publication day will shift from Friday to Wednesday to coincide with the Helena World’s, and like the World, it will be printed by the press of the Advance Monticellonian in Monticello.
“We’re excited,” said Bagley, who swooped in with Davis to save the World in 2019, buying it from GateHouse Media, which had announced it was closing the paper. “We see lots of potential in Brinkley, Clarendon and Holly Grove, and we’ve already met some community people and got time set up to talk to both football coaches on Sunday.”
The World has doubled its weekly circulation since 2019 to above 900, and Bagley hopes to apply what he sees as the secret to success there — a relentless focus on local coverage — at the Argus.
“At the last Arkansas Press Association Convention, the World won the general excellence award for small dailies, so I guess we’re the best small daily in the state this year,” Bagley said.
Taylor will publish essentially a farewell edition of the Herald on Wednesday, Aug. 26, and the first Monroe County Argus will appear on Aug. 31.
Taylor drew praise from Bagley and APA Executive Director Ashley Wimberley for keeping community journalism alive in Brinkley, his hometown. “Hayden took on a challenge few would have attempted in our current era, and his commitment to maintaining a community newspaper in Monroe County is to be applauded,” Bagley said.
In a news release, Davis said Helena World Chronicle LLC is committed to keeping readers informed about what’s happening in their towns, noting the archaic definition of argus, watchful guardian. “Thriving communities have vibrant newspapers that make sure the people are informed. And we believe if we fulfill our role to deliver the local content, then the people will support it.”
Bagley said the Argus will cover “the stories about Brinkley, Clarendon and Holly Grove,” from high school sports to city councils, school board meetings, births, engagements and 100th birthdays. “We want to share that with the readers,” Bagley said.
Current subscriptions will be honored, Bagley said, and new renewal rates, advertising rates and single-copy prices will be announced soon.
“We are committed to providing Monroe County with a first-class community newspaper with high quality local journalism, but that requires an economic model that relies more heavily on subscription revenue,” Bagley said.
In the release, Taylor said he was happy to find buyers outside the big chains who understand a newspaper’s importance to a small Delta community. “I am glad that a committed and capable group will continue to serve Monroe County’s local news needs,” Taylor said.
Wimberley, the APA director, was matchmaker for the Monroe County deal, Bagley said. “Actually at that APA convention, she asked if Chuck and I might be interested in sitting down with Hayden. From that time, we felt it was a good fit for us,” Bagley said. “It's roughly 40 minutes from the Helena office to the office space we've rented in Brinkley, and we’re going to be able to consolidate some administrative functions with existing personnel. Bookkeeping will predominantly run out of the home office, all of the graphic design and layout will also run out of Helena.”