Tuesday, March 06, 2012

TOP STORY >> Leader looks back on first 25 years

Leader staff writer

There has been a millennium of changes in the world and even in the local area since The Leader first appeared 25 year ago on March 4, 1987.

But many things have remained the same.

The top story in the first issue was about the paper itself—how it was free, family-owned and wanting to give the best community coverage possibly.

Twenty-five years later, the paper is not free, but at 50 cents per copy it works out to about a penny or less per news item. The paper is still family-owned, and more of the family has grown into the business.

In 1987, it was Garrick and Eileen Feldman, but since then they have been joined by daughter Aliya and son Jonathan, who now serves as editor.

In 1987, Garrick Feldman said, “This is a growing community with a tremendous vitality and we want to chronicle the events, both small and large that are taking place here.”

That is still the role of The Leader, and the community has expanded to include not only Jacksonville and Sherwood, but also Cabot, Lonoke, Ward, Austin, Carlisle and Beebe.

The paper has been honored throughout the years for its strong community coverage and has won best weekly in its category for the last four years.

On the front page of that first edition was an article about the Pulaski County Special School District and how the district needed “additional funds to meet state education standards.”

Guess what?

Twenty-five years later funding is still a major topic for PCSSD, which is now under state control because of financial mismanagement.

In that article there were statements about the judge presiding over segregation problems of the district. Almost a half dozen judges later, the district has still not cleared up its segregation problems.

In another 1987 front-page article, Sherwood Mayor Jack Evans, in his state-of-the-city address touted the city’s population growth, up to 14,000 then.

In a state-of-the-city address given just recently by Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman, she touted the city’s growth, which at 30,000-plus, has surpassed Jacksonville.

Also in the first edition, Rev. Lyndon Whitledge of the local chapter of the National Federation of Decency protested the sale of pornography within city limits of Jacksonville.

Whitledge, who is still with us and still pushing for a better moral community, said then, “The community is worth fighting for. We want it to be a safe place for our children and our wives.”

Amen to that, Rev. Whitledge.