Ronald Sitton took a keen interest in media as early as the second grade. A field trip to the Arkansas Gazette allowed him to see the paper roll off the press and get fresh ink on his fingers.
During his elementary school years, he started and wrote for publications covering and distributed to his grade schools. He used a pseudonym then, like it would’ve kept anyone from knowing who he was. In the 6th grade at Pine Elementary, he ran to the principal’s office to tell everyone President Reagan had been shot — this in the days before cellphones. Thanks to his mom, faded copies of those mimeographed publications still exist.
Sitton’s interest waned during his junior high and high school days, when he became more interested in football, music and girls. He did some sort of television spot for the North Little Rock school district with Mandy Weir, but only NLRSD knows what happened to it. Perhaps filed away somewhere. But his interest in journalism returned when he took Myrna Gail Hopkins’ yearbook course as a senior at the now-defunct Northeast Senior High School. The summer prior to that year, he took a Meyers-Briggs test at the Arkansas Governor’s School and scored as a journalist.
While attending the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, he fell back in love with the media life. His UALR instructors included Bill Rutherford, Jay Friedlander, Luther W. “Sonny” Sanders, Carlton “Sonny” Rhodes and Bruce Plopper. He wrote for the UALR Forum.
He worked for his hometown newspaper, The Times, straight out of college and ran directly into reality. The starting salary of $11,000 annually paid less than the poverty line in 1992; a 10-cent raise the next year didn’t keep him at the publication. But it wasn’t because he didn’t have fun writing about events and individuals he’d met in North Little Rock. John Thompson taught Sitton that it’s an intricate process to do a column justice.
By the time he worked for The Trucker, an award-winning biweekly covering the trucking industry, Sitton realized he needed to be able to do everything. The publication hired him as a circulation manager, but they also let him write and later help with editing and layout. When he left the publication to attend graduate school, the company hired three people to replace Sitton. Granted, the sum of their paychecks exceeded his, but the experience prepared him for more.
While working for The Trucker, he also took a beat at the state Capitol, where he practiced legislative coverage for the Benton County Daily Record and learned to regionalize the news. That experience proved invaluable when determining how to approach his dissertation topic years later.
Working as the managing editor of The Southerner, a regional magazine online, taught Sitton about starting a company and working for disparate goals. Concurrently teaching at the University of Tennessee School of Journalism and working on his doctorate, he helped Glynn Wilson and Bob Hess develop a general-interest magazine online called The Southerner, as in The New Yorker of the South. He indulged in his favorite pastimes of music, sport and photography and learned a bit of the lucidity of an online venture.
Sitton took as much pride in coming up with the idea of having Southern women write essays on football in the South. His friend — and former Forum editor — Krystal Kuykendall contributed the first piece in the series. But The Politics of Pigskin generated news from The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Utne Reader, bringing a lot of traffic to the site.
Since finishing college, Sitton freelances when possible while teaching the craft. He even started a news site for a ghost town while living in Wyoming.
A Portfolio Online
Back in the olden days, you’d fill a notebook with clips to take around and show different editors in hopes of gaining the golden job. Sitton still keeps his notebook, but more for his own sake. Knowing a little html provides the freedom to put the work where anyone can read it. He claims full responsibility for any mistakes made transcribing the articles into html code.