It was during a weekend trip with his family to float the Buffalo River when it struck Peter Banko, CEO of CHI St. Vincent Health, just how deeply rooted the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has become in the lives of Arkansans. On the river waves, his 14-year-old track-star daughter requested that the CHI St. Vincent-sponsored All Arkansas Preps event add cross country to the event’s list of athletic categories.
For the past three years, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette has hosted All Arkansas Preps to honor more than 350 high school scholar-athletes from around the state. With more than 1,000 attendees, it’s a unique event Banko never expected from a newspaper.
“You might see something like that from a nonprofit organization but not from the newspaper,” he said. “And it has attracted a following of every high school all the way up to folks in their 70s that want to be part of it. A quality event run by a quality organization, it’s the most-requested, hottest ticket in town.”
So when the yearly opportunity to sponsor the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s All Arkansas Preps event pops up, Banko admits there’s never any doubt about CHI St. Vincent wanting to be a part of it.
“It’s an extremely well-run event with the right intentions, meaningful interactions, and quality speakers like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees,” Banko said. “It’s just not something I’ve seen other communities or newspapers do.”
Banko knows his organization has a lot of options when considering advertising. Despite the always-changing environment of how people get their news, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette remains the core of any advertising and marketing strategy CHI St.Vincent implements.
From inserts to special sections, the paper allows for creativity in its approach.
“The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is always open to different and new,” he said. “The individuals we’ve worked with are very open. We’ve never been told no. Sometimes something might not work, but they always explore and try to figure out how to make it work. They are pleasant to work with. We wish every other media outlet were like this.”
From Walter Hussman to reporters, Banko has witnessed a superior level of professionalism when working with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Banko knows it’s about more than just reporting the news. The leadership and ownership of the paper are represented by individuals who lead by example that one can trust, and in the ever-changing world of media, Banko still enjoys holding a newspaper.
“The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and its employees are embedded and engaged in every part of the community,” he said. “They care about the community. They are grounded here. This newspaper is the beginning fabric of our community.”