“Mrs. Charlotte is smiling.”

This is what Ashton Adcock, chairman and chief executive officer of Merchants & Farmers Bank, said after hearing the Charlotte Schexnayder Journalism Internship has been fully funded for a second consecutive year.

The bank’s main office is in Dumas in Desha County, where Schexnayder and her husband, Melvin, published The Dumas Clarion for 44 years. Merchants & Farmers provided one-third of the funding for the $3,000 internship in 2023.

The Dumas Chamber of Commerce, for which Schexnayder served as president, and Arkansas Press Women also each contributed one-third of the funds.

The paid summer internship is one of several offered by the Arkansas Newspaper Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Arkansas Press Association.  The Foundation selects recipients from applications submitted by juniors and seniors majoring in journalism at Arkansas colleges and universities.

The foundation places a recipient for seven to nine weeks at a newspaper participating in the program.

Among the goals of the foundation: To give student journalists an early start in their careers and to support local news coverage.

APW served as the conduit for funding the inaugural Schexnayder internship in 2022. The intention of APW is for the participating newspaper to be located in Desha County or – if the recipient cannot be placed in Desha – in a contiguous county.

The first recipient of the Schexnayder internship, Joe Santana, worked at The Dumas Clarion in the summer of 2022. Santana is a junior majoring in mass communication at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He is a graduate of Dumas High School.

Merchants & Farmers Bank has made a commitment to continue its level of funding for Schexnayder internships in 2024 and 2025.

“The internship is important to us for many reasons,” Adcock explains. “At the top is a shared commitment with our dear, departed friend, Charlotte Schexnayder, to the mission of the Arkansas Press and excellence in journalism. Hopefully, internships will promote the knowledge and integrity that are vital to the objective of excellence.”

APW President Kristin Netterstrom Higgins is hopeful the internship can be offered indefinitely.

“Newspapers play a huge role in creating a sense of community, just like our hospitals and schools do. Arkansas Press Women recognizes this and we want to do everything we can to ensure the future of local journalism,” Netterstrom Higgins said. 

Schexnayder shattered the “glass ceiling” in a lifetime of accomplishment profiled by the Arkansas Women’s Hall of Fame.  She was one of the earliest members – and a former president – of APW and served as president of the National Federation of Press Women from 1977 to 1979.

Schexnayder died at age 96 on December 11, 2020.

For more information about the internship, please contact Terri Cobb at the Arkansas Press Association, tcobb@arkansaspress.org 

Photo: Angelita Faller, APW At-Large District Director, stands next to Ashley Wimberley, executive director of Arkansas Press Association. They hold various checks made out to support the Charlotte Schexnayder Journalism Internship in 2023.