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CORRALLED: Media kept at bay during Clinton/Lincoln event.
  • CORRALLED: Media kept at bay during Clinton/Lincoln event.

Well, it's been a long time coming, but the Times' new website is finally here. It's taken a couple of years to get all of the necessary changes made so the site will function more intuitively and better serve readers but it was worth the wait. As of this writing, over 270 members, new and old, have created profiles and started to comment on blog items.

The new site is the result of the work of many, but the Times' Lindsey Millar deserves most of the credit for spending long hours working with the web designers and slogging through the minutia of the site to make sure everything worked the way it was supposed to.

It doesn't look much different but frequent users will find the new www.arktimes.com easier to navigate and search. The site also allows readers to share content with their friends or other on-line communities through Facebook, Twitter, Digg and Reddit, among others. If you've got an opinion, complaint or compliment for a local restaurant, there's a place for that too. The site's Restaurant Guide allows users to upload reviews and photos and will hopefully become the go-to spot for restaurant information in Central Arkansas.

We've always looked at the website as a community, a place to engage with readers and those who actively comment on the site's content. The new site enhances this aspect, allowing readers to create their own profiles, "friend" each other and list their favorite places around town. So far, we like it. We hope you do too.

In other nothing-stays-the-same news, Arkansas Business lost a talented writer last week when media reporter Sam Eifling left his post to set off on a summer hiking adventure before beginning graduate school in Canada in the fall.

Eifling's work has been featured here in the Arkansas Times. He also writes for the Oxford American from time to time and has an extremely readable website, sameifling.com.

His work at Arkansas Business — even when dealing with subjects as dry as diversification accounts or local news ratings — was always a pleasure to read and he will be missed.

You might remember when former president Bill Clinton came to town a couple of weeks ago to campaign for Sen. Blanche Lincoln (forgive me for being late, but this column only runs every other week). Clinton's visit made big headlines and stirred up a storm of media coverage but the event left a lasting impression upon the journalists who were there covering the event.

After Lincoln finished her speech, the crowd pushed forward to shake hands with the former president or get their picture taken with Lincoln. Camera flashes speckled the stage and cell phone and Flip camera screens lit up with images of the senator and the former president. The press, however, was told to stay back in the roped-off area where we had watched the speech.

The Secret Service, we were told, had asked that members of the media be kept in their corral. A few of us pushed forward anyway and were met by Lincoln campaign volunteers who told us we had to get back. One even told us to leave. When asked why members of the public could step forward and snap pictures but professional photographers could not, no good answer was ever provided.

Jason Tolbert of The Tolbert Report blog was able to squeeze into the first couple of rows and ask the former president about his role in Obama administration discussions with Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak about forgoing a race for Senate. (He didn't.) Tolbert claimed, conveniently, that he was not a member of the press, but a blogger, though he has joined media at other events.

I don't care whether he asks a question or not, or whether he is or isn't part of the media. That's another column. What I do care about is a political campaign making the decision that the press is no longer part of the public and, as such, cannot get close to a candidate and must stay in a roped-off area in the back like obedient supplicants. Lincoln's people finally agreed to a press availability but the damage had already been done.

At press time, the Lincoln campaign had not responded to our request for comment.

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