If you’ve been keeping tabs on this magazine these past few weeks, it probably won’t surprise you to hear that it’s been a pretty interesting month around the Arkansas Life office. (If this is the first you’re hearing about this, I’d encourage you to read this and this.) However, I have to tell you: For as wild as it’s been, it’s tough not to feel excited about most everything. In part, because following a very humbling wave of public support—one expressed in subscriptions, shares on social media, a benefit concert and offers of free lunch—I can tell you the following: Because of you, this magazine was saved.
But that sense of excitement, I think, has also been fed by something else—from the realization that we stand at a crossroads, faced with a question: As Arkansas Life prepares to enter this very new, very exciting phase, what will it look like?
In short, we’ll be publishing 12 times a year, with four print quarterlies and eight digital versions. We’re envisioning the quarterlies—larger than the monthly in terms of both page count and physical layout, published at the start of each spring, summer, fall and winter—will be something that you’ll keep on your coffee table for months at a time. Although it’ll be very similar to the publication that you’ve come to know since our redesign in Fall 2017, there will be some differences. Namely, many of the sections which have only been one-offs in the past—say, State Dish, where a local chef reimagines a classic Arkansas dish, or Wish You Were Here, where we highlight hidden-gem rental properties—will now be fixtures in each issue.
The rest of the year, at the beginning of each month, we’ll be publishing a digital version of the magazine, one unrestricted by page counts and the limitations we’ve often faced as a print product. Although the subject matter of the digital edition will continue to be the same—food, travel, arts, events, etc.—the format that those articles assume will be more visual in the way they’re presented.
For instance, a new feature that we’re calling “What’s On Our Plate”—the digital equivalent of our monthly “First Taste”—will be more photo-driven than its print counterpart, something which will allow us to better showcase the food photography for which we’ve come to be known statewide.
A few other departments you’ll be able to expect:
Welcome Mat: The first page of our first section (Front Porch), a selection of five gotta’s: music you’ve gotta hear, books you’ve gotta read, exhibits you’ve gotta see, and so forth.
The Itinerary: In which we answer the age-old question of “What should we do this weekend” with place-specific recommendations for where to eat, what to see, and how best to do it.
What’s in Our Glass: In which we answer another age-old question: “What’s that you’re drinking?”
Hometown, Revisited: In the four years that we’ve been running our Hometown column, we’ve visited upwards of 40 different locales. With this section, we’ll be taking a look at what’s new.
Letters Home: In which our writers take a narrative trip down memory lane. (Long-time readers may recognize in this some glimmers of “Last Word,” a previous Arkansas Life staple)
I won’t give away everything just yet—but suffice to say, this new format is one that we’re very excited about, particularly because it opens new doors for engagement we never had before, opportunities that you’ll hear about in the months to come.
Now, there are a lot of people who’ve done an awful lot for this magazine—and I’m not exaggerating when I say, we wouldn’t still be doing what we’re doing if it wasn’t for everyone who spoke out, who subscribed, who got involved*. However, if the past month has shown us anything, it’s just how important this community is.
And so, in closing, let me just say this: Whether you’re a new subscriber or just someone who cares about local journalism, I’d encourage you: If this is something you like, let us know. If the magazine is something you’d like to see in your community, let us know. If you or a group of friends would like to chat with us, to hear more about what we do, let us know. Here’s the thing: We’re excited about the future, but we’re even more excited that you’re right there with us.
Jordan P. Hickey
*It would feel wrong not to mention a few people and businesses in particular: Thank you to Matt White of the White Water Tavern, and Joshua Asante, Phillip Rex Huddleston and Ghost Bones for donating their time and their ridiculously good music, (because of you, we were able to buy subscriptions for 40-odd public libraries around the state). Thank you to the many folks who wrote in asking if they could donate, but especially to Mangan Holcomb Partners and the University of Arkansas Press. Thank you to photographer Danielle Green who raffled off a portrait session for anyone who subscribed. A huge thank you to Joy Ellis at Skylark Cafe, whose 900-word Facebook post brought in more subscriptions than anything else. Thank you to all of the contributors who sent in blurbs about what the magazine meant to them—Don House, Wesley Hitt, Heather Breed Steadham, Johnny Carrol Sain, David Priest, Mariam Makatsaria, Eric Francis, Liz Chrisman, Jeff Rose, John David Pittman, Emily Van Zandt, Paul McDonnold, Bonnie Bauman and David Yerby. And finally, to everyone who subscribed: Thank you, thank you, thank you.