“The thing I love about Fort Smith is that it really feels like you can make a difference here. The vibe here is to work hard to get ahead. You can feel the sincerity and generosity of the community, people who want us to succeed,” said Crystal Costa, publisher of the Times Record and a new Arkansas Press Association (APA) board member.

The Times Record oversees the Paris Express.

But when the newspaper does something the community is concerned about, like cutting back on pages or staff, it feels personal too. Costa takes the constructive criticism along with the encouragement as she makes her way through the newspaper industry’s current environment.

Having relationships with others who are in the industry is one reason Costa wanted to join the Arkansas Press Association (APA) board. “I have the benefit of a large corporation in GateHouse. But being around those who have long-time experience in our state, those who know newspapers in Arkansas, is also important,” she said. “I’m looking forward to learning from other experts, sharing ideas and seeing how we can pull together to keep our industry strong.”

A native of Deer in Newton County, Costa began her newspaper career as a journalism student at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock working on The Forum. Her mom gave her a tip on a job at The Leader in Jacksonville when she was completing her Master’s in Technical Writing.

Initially she was a part-time graphic artist and worked her way to become editor of the publication. “It was great exposure to the newspaper industry,” she said. “You had to do everything — layout, report, edit — and the hours were long.”

She left The Leader in 2003 for an eight-to-five job at the Arkansas DemocratGazette where she wrote advertorials and special section copy. When Estel Jeffery left the paper, her mentor Paul Smith asked her to manage the design and editorial staff of the monthly lifestyle magazine Arkansas Life, as well as the weekly alternative newspaper Sync.

Costa later moved to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where she spent six years overseeing their sales, promotional and marketing efforts before taking a break from newspapers to become marketing director for three McLarty Daniel Automotive dealerships in Bentonville.

“I decided I wanted to come back to newspapers and just had my two-year anniversary as publisher at the Times Record,” Costa said. “I’m excited to represent GateHouse and to see how I can help out on the APA board.”