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Top Online Stories: TV Turnover, Walton’s Hometown Goal Among Most-Viewed in 2022

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Stories on the unexpected death of a central Arkansas business leader, turnover on the anchor desks at Little Rock TV stations, and a Walmart heir’s vision for his hometown drew the most views on the Arkansas Business website this year.

The most-read story was a staff report on the death of Mark Middleton, who over the course of 25 years helped his family turn Middleton Heat & Air into one of the largest HVAC companies in the state. Middleton was also managing partner of the investment firm MidCorp Capital of Bryant, and was known for using his fundraising skills to benefit the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and CHI St. Vincent Infirmary.

Middleton’s death in May attracted attention from right-wing conspiracy websites due to his time in the White House as a special assistant to former President Bill Clinton. A significant portion of those who read the story unfortunately came from those websites, driving it to the top spot in 2022.

The second most-read story online was Assistant Editor Kyle Massey’s report in August on KATV morning anchor Chris Kane leaving the station after 12 years. Kane helmed “Daybreak” and “Good Morning Arkansas” alongside Alyson Courtney after starting as an intern on the sports desk. “It’s been an amazing run,” he tweeted.

A story in April on Courtney’s exit from KATV and the departure of her KTHV counterpart Amanda Jaeger was the third most-read story of the year. Both indicated that they’d grown tired of waking in the pre-dawn hours. Courtney stepped away after 14 years to help her two daughters with acting opportunities. Jaeger, who had been with KTHV since 2016, accepted a brand management job at Walmart in Bentonville.

At No. 4 was Assistant Editor Marty Cook’s transportation column from May 30, which recounted a “fireside chat” featuring Steuart Walton at a supply chain conference in Bentonville.

Walton opened the discussion by talking about his and his brother Tom’s plans for their hometown. “Our goal is to make northwest Arkansas and Bentonville, in particular, the best place to live in the United States,” he said.

Coming in at No. 5 was another report on the local media by Massey, this time on the demise of the Arkansas Radio Network. After more than a half-century of sharing news, sports and farm market reports over dozens of local stations across the state, the network owned by Cumulus Media shut down in March. Insiders and regular listeners said paid advertising had been sparse leading up to the closure.

The return of TV anchor Karen Fuller to the Little Rock market — another piece written by Massey — was the No. 6 story online this year. In April, she joined KTHV’s “Wake Up Central,” coming back to the city where her career began after stops in Kansas City and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The seventh most-read story of 2022 was a staff report in June on renovation plans for the Riverdale Shopping Center in Little Rock.

A group of Arkansas partners led by T.J. Lefler purchased the aging 17.6-acre property with the goal of turning it into “one of the premier centers” in the city, with new tenants and a fresh look. Senior Editor George Waldon wrote a detailed follow-up for the Sept. 19 issue of Arkansas Business.

A staff report on a Rogers-based coffee chain’s expansion plans was No. 8, climbing fast after being published earlier this month. 7 Brew Coffee is looking to open its second location in Little Rock at the site of a former Regions Bank branch on Cantrell Road that recently sold for $1.35 million. The first location on Rodney Parham Road is expected to be open in January.

At No. 9, Massey claimed yet another spot on this year’s list with an update on former KATV anchor Chris Kane. Kane joined Delta Solar in September as a business developer, a role in which he’ll help the renewable energy company expand its reach and improve client relationships.

Finally, the No. 10 story was a staff report in November about a new entertainment venue coming to Little Rock. Main Event plans to open in January at the Shackleford Crossing retail center, offering bowling, laser tag, virtual reality, arcade games and more. The company is filling space that was vacant for several years following the closures of Gordmans clothing store and Babies R Us.

Bonus: Contributing Editor Gwen Moritz had a scoop in October that ended up as our No. 11 story this year. She was first to report that the University of Arkansas had given Athletic Director Hunter Yurachek a new five-year contract and raised his salary to foil Auburn University’s attempt to hire him. 

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