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40 years, a lot of ink

Some of it left a permanent mark.

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There have been around 1,300 issues of the Arkansas Times by now, which means our genetic code includes, say, 20,000 stories in print and another 30,000 online. We'd like to think we share some of that code with the great magazines and newspapers of our time. Are we as close to the New Yorker as humans are to chimps? Or are we more like the News of the World? Or the leftist Dissent? The neoconservative Commentary? Or, as Woody Allen would say, their JOA, Dysentery?

Whatever, there are a few stories that we think are forever bound up in our history, the ones we free associate with the words Arkansas Times. They're political stories, crime stories, sometimes political crimes stories. There's government and guns. Issues of gender and immigration. These bits of our genetic code changed Arkansas's makeup in one way or another. Among them:

Our 1975 story about a police officer's scheme to plant marijuana in the car of then-Prosecuting Attorney Jim Guy Tucker. Check out the oral history story to get the details on this story, which got a cop fired and almost got an editor shot.

Our 1978 stories on a police sting set up to catch liquor distributor Harry Hastings, an action later ruled by a federal judge as tantamount to entrapment, and our transcriptions of incriminating tapes never put into evidence.

Our no-holds-barred coverage of the antics of the Arkansas legislature, including the story that brought Sen. Nick Wilson down, about legislators getting million-dollar contracts from legislation they created.

Our series of stories in the 1990s during the Clinton administration, stories less about cigars and more about the political motivation behind Whitewater and Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr, and the collateral damage done to partisan targets in Arkansas.

Our stories on the crisis at the state's juvenile holding center (1998), where one teenager hanged himself and others suffered abuse, including sodomy, from older inmates and staff. Part of our reporting was on the Democrat-Gazette's decision not to report what it knew about the abuses, withholding the news for packaging later in prize-entry form.

Our stories on the abuse of the Mansion Fund by Gov. Mike Huckabee (1998), who on the advice of his chief of staff used the account meant to operate the public mansion on things such as Velveeta, laundering of jeans, dinners out and the like. Huckabee survived a suit over the use, but the account was no longer used for cheese dip.

Our Arkansas Blog, which has broken stories as diverse as Frank Broyles' retirement as athletic director at the University of Arkansas, to news that the West Memphis Three would be released from prison, to the news that the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences was considering merging with St. Vincent Health, to the private option compromise to expand health care in Arkansas, to Bobby Petrino's female company on his motorcycle ride, to the intemperate postings about women and cases by Faulkner County Judge Mike Maggio, who has now been banned from the bench, to the list of concealed gun owners (earned a few death threats with that one) ...

Our ongoing stories ... on the struggles of undocumented Hispanics against bigotry and the ways in which their culture, intelligence and work ethic have enriched our state. Our coverage of inequality of education in the schools. Our longtime advocacy journalism on gay rights, starting our first year in print with an editorial by Alan Leveritt on gay rights as human rights and continuing with our work on gays as loving couples, gays in church, gays in the military, gays battling for their right to foster children, their battle to marry. We hope to continue to write until all the battles are won.

Our clear-eyed reporting of the West Memphis Three case, from Bob Lancaster's reporting on the trial of Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin in the deaths of three little boys in West Memphis — "The Devil on Trial" — to Mara Leveritt's continuing crucial investigative stories on the crime, the judicial system and efforts to free the men.


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