JOEL PHELPS, founder
After a four-year hiatus from journalism, veteran Arkadelphia reporter Joel Phelps had the vision to report on and document daily life in Clark County, Arkansas. After finishing high school, Phelps moved to Arkadelphia from Sparkman in 2004 and studied print journalism at Henderson State University. It was there he learned the several facets of news gathering, writing and production as a staffer and associate editor of The Oracle. Upon graduating Henderson with a Bachelors in Arts, he swiftly entered the newspaper business, first as managing editor of The Gurdon Times, then as lead reporter at the Daily Siftings Herald in Arkadelphia.
From 2008 to 2017, Phelps worked in several capacities with GateHouse Media newspapers. While most of his accomplishments were carried out as reporter for the Siftings, Phelps also was responsible for the production of The Gurdon Times, Nevada County Picayune, Hope Star, Stuttgart Daily Leader, Helena World, Newport Independent, White Hall Journal and the Bastrop Enterprise. Phelps also worked as a reporter at The Saline Courier in Benton, but soon returned to be closer to family and friends.
In that decade, Phelps earned numerous awards for his work in journalism from The Associated Press and Arkansas Press Association. He was also interviewed for an episode of Oxygen Network’s “Snapped” on a murder story he covered. Phelps left GateHouse to seek vocation in his hometown at Ray White Lumber Co., where he was a Southern Pine Inspection Bureau certified grader and, ultimately, supervisor over 20 employees. GateHouse, meanwhile, closed operations on its Arkansas holdings, leaving a void for an audience hungry for local news coverage.
A natural at observing his surroundings, Phelps noticed Arkadelphia was changing — a bypass was being built, Pine Street was being widened and businesses were popping up all over town — but there was no daily account of what was happening, or even why it was happening. Seeing the viability of arkansas911news.com, MySaline.com and magnoliareporter.com, Phelps got the idea to create an online news website, and The Arkadelphian was born.
Prior to launch, The Arkadelphian was formed as a limited liability company with Arkansas’ Secretary of State’s office. Phelps later joined Local Independant Online News (LION Publishers) as an aspring entrepreneur.
The concept of an online newspaper is an easy one to grasp: Phelps serves the public as a watchdog, covering decisions made by the Arkadelphia City Board of Directors, Arkadelphia Board of Education, Clark County Quorum Court and the 1/2-cent sales tax-funded Economic Development Corp. of Clark County. In addition to meeting coverage, he writes the occasional profile or human interest story on Clark County residents, and regularly visits state agency websites in search of names or angles of local interest.
The website was officially launched in August 2021, and in five months it received nearly 80,000 visitors and 148,500 page views. In that time, the business captured the attention of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette‘s Rex Nelson, who applauded the startup of an online news source in the absence of a printed daily, and was featured in the September edition of Arkansas Business Publishing Group.
The Arkadelphian is a paywall-free website, meaning there is no paid subscription required to view content. Much like its printed counterpart, a digital newspaper relies on revenue from advertising. Those who advertise with The Arkadelphian will have their message seen by more than 30,000 viewers each month, with the added bonus of including a direct link to their company website or social media page.
Phelps is married to Natalie Scrimshire of Malvern. Scrimshire is a librarian at Henderson’s Huie Library. They have one daughter, Rowan Phelps, who is a student at Arkadelphia High School.