Argenta News, R.I.P.

By press time, but pending a scheduled May 20 vote by the Argenta Downtown Council, it appeared the popular Argenta News blog will be divvied up and sold off.

The blog has been off the air, so to speak, since early April, when founder Scott Miller announced his intention to sell the site. Artist and Argenta Studios founder V.L. Cox was one reader who told Miller she was going through withdrawal with the site down, such was the impact the blog had made on the downtown North Little Rock neighborhood in the past four years.

"It was hands-down the backbone of the community," Cox said. "It really was. Scott filled a void that was desperately needed. We knew who was selling their bike down the road; we knew when the Travelers were playing. It was all in the same place. Everybody's feeling disjointed and very disconnected right now."

When Miller started the original version of the site, in 2006, he was head of Argenta's neighborhood association and looking for a way to centralize news relevant to the neighborhood. As Argenta flourished, the site also became a hub for real estate news and listings, and also for atomic-level buzz: who's trying to unload an old freezer, who's having an art show, whose kid just won a quiz bowl tournament.

The old URL is kaput, but you can still find some of the recent headlines on its Facebook page, including "Hot Dog Stand Now Open on Main Street" and "Help a Trav Find Local Housing."

One of the seminal moments in the blog's history came when it reported on and facilitated a rollicking discussion of the painting of downtown traffic boxes, one of which depicted a churchgoing scene. Media consolidation and penury leave many such neighborhood stories to slip through the cracks. "Websites create a solution to that," Miller said. "Unfortunately, they're not profitable yet either."

His impetus to sell the site, he said, was twofold. With the advent of the Arkansas Arts Foundation and its move into publicizing the arts scene in Argenta, much of his content would have been redundant. And, he said, "to be honest with you, it's rare you can actually sell a website." He didn't disclose terms of the sale.

His goal of bringing the neighborhood together with news seems to have been realized. (He even helped bring free Wi-Fi to the neighborhood through Urban Wireless, which installed free wireless Internet to 100 blocks in downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock.) Now what he calls the "assets" of the site will be split between the Argenta Downtown Council and the arts foundation. The content he hopes to format in such a way that the William F. Laman Public Library and the North Little Rock Historic District Commission both can keep the blog's archives - digital's version of microfiche, perhaps.