KARK: Love For Sale? 

click to enlarge CAMPUS SPECIAL: Power Point presentation suggests paid partnership.
  • CAMPUS SPECIAL: Power Point presentation suggests paid partnership.

KARK Channel 4 general manager Rick Rogala denies any suggestion that the station will be selling news coverage during a fall tour of Arkansas colleges and universities by the channel's morning show, KARK 4 Today.

Between Oct. 26 and Nov. 2, KARK 4 Today will be broadcasting live from the campuses of several Arkansas universities. In a KARK advertising department PowerPoint presentation sent to the Arkansas Times by an anonymous source and later posted online on local blogs, the station offers universities the opportunity to purchase a “full partnership” in the tour for $5,000. “Join [morning anchors] Matt, Melissa, Mike and Tracy in highlighting the attributes that make your campus special!” the presentation trumpets. For the money, it says, partners will receive “live coverage of your campus,” two 30-second spots on KARK 4 Today, 30 on-air promos showcasing the partner's campus, 30 minutes live with reporter Tracy Douglass “with interviews of staff, students, etc,” as well as banner ads and exclusive video clips on the KARK website.

Rogala (after complaining that the Times' source had swiped the station's “copyrighted content”) said that the campuses that would be visited by the morning show were picked solely by the news staff. After the stops on the tour were chosen, he said, the KARK advertising department came up with the idea of giving those colleges “added benefit” through a paid advertising partnership.

“It could be misinterpreted, but there is no content for sale,” Rogala said. “Somebody in marketing said, as long as we're going there, let's offer these universities the chance to push themselves further.”

Rogala said that one thing that might make the partnership offer look suspicious is that the version posted online bears a Hendrix College logo at the top, even though Hendrix is not one of the campuses on the KARK 4 Today campus tour. He said he will be looking into whether Hendrix was indeed offered a tour partnership by the KARK marketing department.

“The reality is that we're not going to Hendrix,” he said. “And if your question is, if Hendrix paid $5,000 would we come there, the answer is no.”

Meanwhile, though I've never been that big of a sports fan, I know more then a few people who I would classify as sports nuts. Taken to extremes, Sports Nuttism is a peculiar kind of sickness, one whose fever must be constantly fed with live games, replays, recap shows, recaps of recap shows, umpteen column inches of sports page coverage, Internet sites, sport-specific blogs, message boards, radio shows, etc, etc, etc.

CORRECTION: Original verion of this article described Rogala incorrectly as news director.

Now, just when you thought every possible inch of newspaper space, airwave of bandwidth was covered over with sports, Arkansas sports fans have two new places to glean even more information about their favorite teams and players: Arkansas Sports 360 magazine, and its companion webpage, arkansassports360.com. Products of Arkansas Business Publishing Group, both the magazine and the website are free. The magazine will appear monthly, while the website will offer a daily sports e-newsletter for those who sign up. The debut issue, on stands now, looks great, with full color and snappy graphics all the way through. The August cover features University of Arkansas running back Darren McFadden. Inside is an extensive fall football season preview, including stories on recruiting and training at UA, Arkansas State, the University of Central Arkansas, UA-Pine Bluff, and standout high school programs around the state.

Former Arkansas Times entertainment editor and Arkansas Gazette sportswriter Jim Harris is the editor of the new magazine. Harris said that while he has mostly been on the sidelines of sports coverage for the past 16 years, the admitted sports fanatic feels back in the groove with his new gig. He said he hopes to give readers of both the website and the print edition something new and interesting in a market that can be crowded with sports talk.

“The magazine is not just something to offer an ad position for me,” Harris said. “It's really about offering a fresh take on sports.”

While football and basketball season will obviously be prime time for the new magazine and website, Harris said the publication will break through the off-season doldrums with interesting coverage of what some might regard as offbeat sports – everything from professional bass fishing to local soccer. “I just see so many avenues to cover and people to cover,” he said.

Initial circulation of the print edition of Arkansas Sports 360 will be 20,000 copies. The magazine will be available on racks at many restaurants, fitness centers, sporting goods stores and libraries in central Arkansas. In addition, current Arkansas Business subscribers will receive the magazine by mail at no additional charge.





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