By Joel Phelps
The Arkadelphian

Getting scooped is no fun, but it sure can be sweet.

Prior to it being public knowledge, The Arkadelphian had known for quite some time the name of the company our economic development officials were so tight-lipped about.

I personally called BS when, in late November, the name “Cupcake” was chosen because of the Christmas holidays. But I kept mum, reporting the news as a mere observer. It was said during that meeting that the company would choose one of four locations in the U.S. within 35 days. The vibes, to me, seemed positive that things would swing in our favor.

A month passed, and I asked the Alliance if said company had chosen a spot yet. Check back later, I was told. So I did, weeks later. Still, no news to share. Weeks went by, and the project was again discussed in a public meeting, but no word yet on its name.

In the following weeks I carried out my routine of putting out feelers in hopes for a lead on a good story. One morning while shooting the breeze with someone, I mentioned this “Cupcake” project and the first words out of his mouth were “You mean Hostess?”

I immediately inquired but was given no confirmation. See, there’s a thing called a non-disclosure agreement: Say our name publicly and the deal is off. No Alliance people gave me any information, I can assure you. I couldn’t get anyone to budge — not off the record, not even as a friend. But, you see, Hostess was in the process of purchasing a property at our industrial park, where there were likely eyes on the ground watching as Hostess officials scoped out the old Danfoss building. Someone pushing a broom likely told his kin what was seen, and rumor spread like wildfire in a dry county without a burn ban.

In early March, I performed my routine check of local real estate transactions and was shocked by an $11.5 million deal at the industrial park. After a quick Google search surfaced that the grantee listed on the deed, HB Acquisitions, was actually Hostess Brands, I was armed then with enough information to let the Alliance know Cupcake was no longer a secret.

I could have popped the balloon then. But there was an announcement to be made soon, like in a couple days soon. Can you just hang tight for a little longer? The local press will be first to know. Hell, it had been such a “secret” this long, so why not? I hung tight, then the big announcement got postponed another week. In the meantime my inky-fingered counterpart, Joe May at the Southern Standard, printed a story strongly hinting that Cupcake would soon be making an announcement. 

At 9:35 p.m. Thursday, not one but three readers shared with me a link to a trade publication breaking the news that Hostess was investing in Arkadelphia. I felt betrayed — nay, hurt and embarrassed — and immediately shared this news story with the folks at the Alliance, who assured me they, too, were dumbfounded by this newsbreak. 

I slipped out of bed and went straight to work in order to share with my audience what had been leaked to the web in hopes the news value wouldn’t die and make local news a laughingstock. 

That’s when I unleashed an onslaught of puns relating to a snack cake factory pledging its creation of local jobs. I guffawed and punched the air with every pun I inserted. After publishing the story I thought of several more puns and updated the story as they came to me, guffawing and air-punching along the way. 

I also took to the Facebook comments more related puns, and suddenly being scooped on this big deal was, well, no big deal. 

I worked well into the morning hours on the story, having fun with these comments and puns, then writing this editorial, which I later edited once the sugar high waned.

This news was so sweet in every regard that we all wanted to spread the frosting, to lick the spoon, to be the cherry on top. What matters is that we’re all ingredients — especially those at the Arkadelphia Alliance for their work in securing the deal — of an overall picture, to keep our county a competitive force in economic growth.

Could I have waited for Monday’s press conference to share what I knew? Sure as sugar, I could have. But I sure like that candy, and we live in a world now of immediacy, where secrets become more difficult to keep. I feel like I did my small part of keeping the public abreast, and I did it, well, quite tastefully.