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Don Elkins’ career in broadcasting began in the Navy and his work has subsequently appeared on ABC News, the BBC, CNN, and CBS. Now in Northwest Arkansas, Elkins is the news co-anchor of KNWA, based in Fayetteville and owned by Nexstar, which also owns KARK, Channel 4, in Little Rock. Elkins took a moment to discuss his popular blog (www.arkansastonight.com), his job at KNWA, and rumors that he may run for the third district congressional seat currently occupied by John Boozman.
Q. In your 20-plus years of broadcasting experience, is there anyone you would avoid covering again? Anyone you would love to interview again? Ever get star-struck?
A. I’d absolutely avoid the Minister Louis Farrakhan. His body guards were the only people to threaten me with physical harm and mean it. I’d love to interview Arianna Huffington again. I spent some time with her at the Four Seasons in Chicago. (Calm down! It was just an interview). She was absolutely charming. That, and I love her blog. I don’t really get star-struck — just that one time meeting Steve Barnes and Max Brantley.
Q. Well, you and I have yet to meet in person, so we’ll see how you hold up in the face of true star power. Nexstar, which owns both KNWA and KARK, has consolidated sports coverage in Northwest Arkansas, eliminating most local sports coverage at KARK. Any chance of further consolidations?
A. There are plans that include change, but as far as I know, they feel very comfortable with our on-air team, and would like those people to stay around. Of course, as the almighty bottom line takes more control of the media, who can tell? With apologies to Bob Clausen at KARK (who is a fantastic anchor) I wouldn’t feel bad about one NBC face, provided it’s mine. No shame in competition. I’d kick Bob’s butt … (kidding — it’s probably the other way around).
Q. That’s no joke — he doesn’t even have a blog! You, on the other hand, maintain a popular blog in addition to hosting a radio show and anchoring the nightly news. How do you manage all three and which do you prefer?
A. Actually, I have the blog, three radio shows, Q. The Arkansas Times’ blog just celebrated its first year in business. How long have you been keeping up your blog? What has been the reaction?
A. I’m jealous of them on their anniversary — they have more readers on a given day than I think I get in a week. It’s been a couple of years for me in November. Reaction has either been violently in favor or violently opposed. The power the thing has to communicate is awesome — something gets written, becomes part of the permanent record, and people respond directly — kind of like television with “people meters.” I’ve had interesting positive feedback in terms of true moderates who have applauded me for some of the opinion pieces I’ve run, and have also taken me to school and helped educate me on some issues. I originally started it as a way to network, and as a source for information for my job (we didn’t have voice mail for a couple of years at the television station — the blog helped).
Interesting negative feedback came from white supremacists in Russellville, the White Revolution members who posted some pretty nasty things on the site. They liked to call me “Juan.” Some of the negative feedback also led to stimulating conversations about the nature of partisanship and the media. I don’t think I gained many friends on that account, but did find my own beliefs challenged directly, and found myself more than happy to respond. The blog has actually toughened me up a bit to criticism. In television, one can find oneself sheltered from criticism. Not on a blog — you get it hard, fast, and ugly. Also, I’ve occasionally had run-ins with management from the companies that have owned the television station and the newspaper concerning the blog ... in most of those situations, I was to blame. You have to have some handle on press law to get by — and that may still not keep you out of court.
Q. How important is the blog to getting the rest of your work done? Do you have a favorite local blog?
A. I have a regular list of blogs I visit each day about 3-4 times, starting before the morning news at 6 a.m. I visit all the Arkansas blogs (of which I’m aware) and rely on several for quick updates — the Arkansas Times blog is a very good one — they have the advantage of being faster than radio these days in breaking news. Also, I read rawstory.com, cnn.com, the New York Times, and Washington Post websites as well as one of my favorites, crooksandliars.com, essentially a video blog, something I’m working on myself. I also enjoy your blog, arkansasmedia.blogspot.com, which I find to be one of the funniest, most honest blogs around. (I can’t get away with saying most of the things you can.)
Q. You’re flirting with me, aren’t you, Don?
Q. Are you saying I’m going to be sued?
Q. What do you think of Congressman John Boozman’s blog?
Q. That’s why my money’s on you. Democratic Party Chairman Jason Willett recently confirmed that he met with you and encouraged you to run for Boozman’s seat. Any further meetings? Give us the odds — if I put money on it, should I bet you’ll run? If you do, what are the odds you’ll win?
A. I’m sorry, what were you asking me? Something about someone’s seat?
No, seriously, I’d say I’m 99.999999 percent sure I have no plans right now to run for any elected office this decade. Again, there’s that .000001 percent chance I would. I’ll keep my options open, but don’t consider it likely. I mean, if he called and asked me to run in his place, how could I say no? But if I ran, you’re damned right I’d win! So odds of running are -99.9999999999 percent and likelihood of winning (in a theoretical alternative universe) 100 percent plus.
Q. I’m a sucker for a theoretical winner — thanks, Don!
Little Rock resident Joy Ritchey reviews local media at www.arkansasmedia.blogspot.com.
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