In a tribute to a lifetime of journalistic excellence, Arkansas Press Women is shining a spotlight on its longest current member, Eva Marie Pearson, as she reflects on her 35-year career in the ever-evolving landscape of journalism.

Pearson embarked on her journalism journey in 1974, dedicating an impressive 35 years to the Pine Bluff Commercial. Throughout the majority of her career, she served as the editor of the Accent Section, leaving an indelible mark on the publication.

“When I got my first job at the Pine Bluff Commercial, I had completed my tenure of teaching school and decided there had to be an easier way to make a living,” Pearson recalled. “I had done a lot of publicity for a lot of organizations, but I didn’t get the job the first time I applied because I didn’t have a degree in journalism. Fortunately, I found my niche because I spent 35 years there. It was the most rewarding, frustrating job that you could ever have. Some days it was fun and some days I wanted to pull my hair out.”

When asked what her favorite stories were over the years, Pearson recalled the memorable answer she received when she asked the same question of a retiring society editor she was highlighting in an article.

“I asked what her favorite stories were, and she said, ‘They all were. They were all important.’ My philosophy was that if I could cover your activity, it was covered,” Pearson said. “It didn’t matter who you were, what your education was, what the color of your skin was. If it was newsworthy, it was newsworthy.”

However, Pearson did identify covering the building of the Arts and Science Center for Southeast Arkansas from its inception to grand opening as one of the most memorable times of her career as well as the first time she ever had to invoke the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to a meeting.

During her career, Pearson received more than 300 awards for writing, editing, page design, headline writing and photography. Her honors include being named a state “Friend of 4-H” and “Friend of Extension” and graduating from LeadAR, the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service’s leadership development program. In the years since she retired, Pearson would often receive letters from grateful readers who fondly recall reading her articles in the Accent Section.  

“We covered weddings, engagements, birth announcements, clubs, nonprofits, the arts and all kinds of feature stories,” she said. “Now that part of the paper is gone. It pretty much vanished after I retired. People still miss it, and I have people tell me that to this day. They knew what was going on in Pine Bluff and southeast Arkansas when I was the accent editor. It was my job to keep people informed, and I tried to do a good job.”

Since retiring in 2009, she has been involved in a variety of volunteer activities and has contributed to the publicity efforts of several nonprofit organizations. She formerly served as publicity chairman and blogger for the Arkansas Extension Homemakers Council as well as publicity chairman for the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary. She is currently a communicant of Trinity Episcopal Church.

“The example was set by my mother,” Pearson said of her many volunteer activities. “She had a full-time volunteer job at the Episcopal Church. People would come to her with problems when they couldn’t go anywhere else. She was still doing that when she died.”

Pearson joined Arkansas Press Women and the National Federation of Press Women (NFPW) in 1976 and has been a member of both organizations for 48 years.

“I hope I make it to 50 years!” Pearson said. “If you are going to be in a profession, then you need to have some roots and support that profession. You need to do as much networking as you can. These organizations have been wonderful as far as networking is concerned. I found out things I wouldn’t have known and remained informed.”

Pearson served as president of APW from 1989 to 1992 and was named APW Communicator of Achievement and NFPW Communicator of Achievement in 2000. She remains only the fourth Arkansan to receive this prestigious national award from NFPW. Pearson was also a dedicated member of the NFPW Board of Directors for many years, serving as historian for 11 years, Communicator of Achievement director for two years, and social director for two years.

From arts and entertainment to community reporting, Pearson’s journey embodies the resilience, passion, and dedication that define the spirit of journalism. Going into the field of journalism today isn’t for the faint of heart, according to Pearson, who has some advice for college students.

“I would say if you are not passionate about it, get out of it,” she said. “I would also say to find something that you are an expert in. Don’t just be a generalist. One of the things I was an expert in was country music. I have interviewed almost every country musician that came to Pine Bluff and reviewed almost every country music concert during that time. I did that on my own. You have to take the initiative. You can’t wait to sit around and wait for someone to give you an assignment.”