A lifeline for ‘the only source of local information’

In Helena, Arkansas, population 10,300 people, money from the federal Paycheck Protection Program was a “godsend” for the weekly Helena World newspaper, publisher Andrew Bagley said. The paper’s staff consists of Bagley, a bookkeeper and two freelance writers. 

GateHouse was planning to close the 149-year-old paper when Bagley and his business partner, Chuck Davis, bought the paper in September 2018, Bagley said. The paper, slammed by a loss of event-related advertising during the COVID-19 pandemic in eastern Arkansas, received between $10,000 and $20,000 in forgivable loan funds, he said.

“The money helped us get through the worst of the pandemic,” Bagley said. “I think we’re going to be OK.”

Readers have appreciated the World’s coverage of everything from COVID-19 to Phillips County municipal governments and schools in print and on the paper’s website, Bagley said.

“We are the only source of local information,” he said.

PPP money “made the difference between laying people off and not laying people off” at the Adair County Community Voice, a weekly newspaper in Columbia, Kentucky, and The Farmer’s Pride, a statewide newspaper for the farming community.

That assessment came from Sharon Burton, publisher and founder of both publications.

The PPP funding preserved six jobs and ongoing coverage of the pandemic in print and online, Burton said.

“I believe we provide a very important service to our community,” she said.