For 140 years, The Madison County Record has been telling the stories of this county and its people. It has printed birth announcements, marriage announcements and obituaries. It has covered news stories, sporting events, city council and school board meetings and various other meetings. It has printed sheriff’s reports and police reports. And, for 140 years, has been holding public officials accountable. Our philosophy has always been that there should be news – feature stories as well as hard news, stories that are hard to tell – in newspapers.
First published on May 31, 1879, The Record has been through ownership changes, location changes and name changes, but it has continued to print the news of the county. It has sold subscriptions and advertising to maintain its financial viability but to also promote businesses’ growth in the area. The Record’s economic good fortune has always depended on the county and its businesses’ financial good fortune.
The paper was originally published by Joseph H. Daugherty, an established newspaperman, who started off by earning praise for his first editions. In June of 1879, two newspapers in the state, The Batesville Guard and The Arkansas Gazette, wrote about the new editions of The Record. The Batesville Guard wrote that “Jos. H. Daugherty, formerly of the Boone County Record, had published a good, readable paper” and hoped that the people of Madison County would sustain him of that enterprise. The Arkansas Gazette stated, “We are in receipt of the Madison County Record, a new weekly recently started at Huntsville by J.H. Daugherty, editor and proprietor. The Record is a handsome and well-edited paper and we extend it our best wishes for its success and prosperity.”
Later that year, The Record’s publication would be halted for two months after a fire. In 1884, the paper was taken over by John Elsey and the name was changed to The Madison County Democrat. Just a year later, Augustus Lowe purchased the paper and changed its name to The War Eagle Republican. In July 1919, Alfred Hawn purchased the paper and its name was again changed to The Madison County Record. In 1947, Former Gov. Orval Faubus and his wife, Alta, purchased the paper and it has since remained in that family, who have owned the paper for the longest period of time.
The institution has always focused on the people and events of Madison County. It has seen an evolution of the types of stories it covers. In October 1879, the paper wrote about collecting apples in order to send them to the Arkansas State Fair. In 1931, a column down the righthand side of the paper listed all the farmers who had been hurt farming during the previous week. Today, that would not be possible under current privacy laws. Many front page stories during the 1940s focused on who was selling cattle and for how much.
Some stories have stayed the same. The early papers ran obituaries, many on the front page, and editorials, along with stories on government meetings. Letters to the editor were and still are welcome. Today, The Record remains the only source of news in the county, the only place you can find school lunch menus, the only place to find photos of the local homecoming court, library news, coverage of city council, quorum court, school board, water, and planning commission meetings. It is the only publication covering in-depth coverage of the last school millage vote, and it will be the only source of in-depth coverage of next year’s county elections. The Record is also the only Madison County news source covering football, basketball, soccer, and track and field, just to name only a few sports teams that it covers.
For the next four weeks, we will be celebrating our 140th birthday by looking back at certain events and writing about coverage of certain stories throughout the years. We’ll also be taking a deeper dive into the changing landscape of the newspaper business and the role we will take in sustaining the business for hopefully another 140 years, while also seeking to change and survive in an ever-challenging industry. We hope you, our readers, will take this journey with us.