Matt Campbell, the lawyer and blogger who recently broke big news with details about Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ purchase of a $19,000 lectern, is joining the newsroom of Arkansas Times soon, the publication announced Tuesday.
Campbell, the author of the Blue Hog Report blog and an expert on state Freedom of Information requests, has been “long recognized for exposing fraud and abuse of power,” the Times said in its announcement.
The Little Rock monthly magazine with robust daily online reporting noted Campbell’s history of reporting on official wrongdoing, citing Circuit Judge Mike Maggio, jailed for bribery; former Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, who misused state credit cards; and the lectern episode, which was reported as a “scandal” Monday in The Wall Street Journal.
The Blue Hog brand will now be under the Arkansas Times umbrella, and Campbell will turn from “full-time lawyering to full-time reporting,” the announcement said.
Arkansas Times Publisher Alan Leveritt called the addition a hiring coup and a victory “for all Arkansas progressives suffering under a red state regime.”
Campbell told Arkansas Business on Tuesday that he will still do FOIA cases on the side, “but otherwise am moving away from any legal practice.” He said full-time journalism has been his goal since the first of the year.
“I’ve been paring down my clients for the past few months, and I informed the remaining folks yesterday,” he said.
Leveritt said Campbell’s move to the Times “will give him an even larger platform for his important reporting. We are proud to have him as part of the Arkansas Times editorial staff. In the past year we have more than doubled our editorial staff, from four to 10. Matt is an important addition as we continue to grow an aggressive, dogged and skilled reporting staff.”
Philanthropic giving by liberal readers, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars, has helped the Times build up its staff.
Since first appealing for donations in April 2022, Leveritt and Director of Development Wythe Walker have increased the news staff from four to 10, including Campbell. They also built a subscriber base of 4,000 full-access website readers paying $120 a year, and hired reporters to cover hot-button beats like education, City Hall and investigations.
Walker told Arkansas Business on Tuesday that donations “definitely” helped the Times hire Campbell. “Alan’s fired up. We’re heading to NWA [northwest Arkansas] to raise funds.”
“Wythe went to work, and he did $110,000 [in donations and grants] in the last six months of last year,” Leveritt told Arkansas Business in late August. “This June we raised $24,000 with a letter to our subscribers asking them to support the journalism … and we recently raised $50,000 to fund David as a full-time Arkansas Learns beat reporter.” Leveritt was referring to Times veteran David Ramsey, who has written for The New Republic, Men’s Journal and The Paris Review.
Arkansas Learns is the education overhaul that will give parents state-paid vouchers to send children to private schools, or even to home-school them. Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders made the Learns Act the showcase of her first months in office, and Leveritt and Walker say their readers’ dismay with the conservative governor is clearly helping their cause.
“Sarah’s helping with our traffic,” Walker said in August.
In an email to his staff, Leveritt said the hiring of Campbell is “one more step in our plan to create an allstar editorial staff that will become the state’s best local reporting outfit bar none.
“Our goal is to create an online and print news organization that is a must read for any public official, business leader or community leader in Arkansas. And I mean all of them, whether they are liberal or conservative.”