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Sitton helps revive journalism

Michael Ford
Photo by Norma Farthing
Professor Ronald Sitton

   Ronald Sitton, assistant professor of journalism, joined the University of Arkansas at Monticello in fall 2004 to help revive the journalism program and its coinciding student publications.

   “They made me feel like this is a good opportunity to take a program in its infancy and take it to the next level,” Sitton said.

   Sitton grew up in Little Rock, Ark., and lived in North Little Rock from second grade through high school. At about the age of 9, his mom, Rebecca Lynn Sitton, and step dad, David Leroy Sitton Sr., married on July 7, 1977 at 7:07 a.m.

   “My step dad wanted to make it work out and figured those sevens must be lucky,” Sitton said.

   Sitton attended Arkansas Governor’s School in 1986 held at Hendrix College. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism in 1992 and Master of Arts in Journalism in 1996, both from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and his Doctorate in Speech Communication from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville in 2004.

   Sitton said the chance to come home, after being away for over six years, brought him back to Arkansas. During his time away, Sitton’s grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

   “I was looking for ways to get home and see her,” he said.

   Sitton found his way back home when he answered an ad for a journalism position at UAM.. He talked to Vice-Chancellor David Ray and Speech Professor Linda Webster about the program and got to meet the speech people.  

   “The Voice looks terrific and he (Sitton) seems to enjoy working with UAM students,” Webster said.

   Sitton said they seemed really interested in helping in the revival of student publications.

   “I came in and they were trying to start the newspapers after it wasn’t around for a while,” he said. “I believe they got five issues out last spring. We got eight issues out as a bi-monthly in the fall and 12 in the spring as a weekly. Hopefully we can keep it a 12-issue weekly publication.”

   Sitton said the people he works with and the students he works for are his favorite part of UAM.

   “I can honestly say this has been one of the most enjoyable groups of people I’ve worked with out of all the places I’ve taught,” he said.

   Sitton said he loves seeing the light bulb go on in his student’s head.

   “There’s nothing like teaching someone and they finally get it,” he said. “That’s why Introduction to Journalism is probably my favorite course to teach. The only course to come close to that is Feature Writing.”

   Sitton always looks for better ways to explain things to his students. He said sometimes he does not feel he’s doing a good enough job, although students tell him otherwise.

   “With students, the hardest thing is when I want them to do well so much that when they feel they’re not doing well, it bugs me,” he said.

   Sitton said he has an obligation to tell student it’s not going be an easy road, because it’s journalism.

   “You’re not going to make much money,” he said. “You got to do it because you love it.”

   Sitton considers journalism a craft like any other craft, and said “the more you do it, the better you get at it.”

   “When I was in second or third grade, I was in the gifted and talented program and we had to do a personal project,” he said. “I put together a newspaper.”

   Though Sitton started out interested in journalism at an early age, he said he spent most of his high school years interested in football and girls. However, he wrote for the yearbook his senior year and that led him back to journalism.  

   Though finishing third in Alpha Chi's "Rookie of the Year," Sitton said he wishes UAM would hire an additional journalism instructor.

   “If we have more than one approach, students can start finding their own voice,” he said. “I think students would get a better liberal arts education if we were able to give them a different viewpoint.”

   Sitton said the journalism program was only two years old and would experience growing pains, some of which happened this year.

   “I feel the journalism program is growing,” he said. “I can see that in the number of people who have come to me out of nowhere. I believe it can do nothing but get stronger as more people get involved.”

    Although the online version of the Voice continues to gather steam, Sitton wants students who come through UAM to be able to say they worked on an online and print version of a newspaper. 

   “Students need something they can hold in their hand,” Sitton said. “After talking to the chancellor and vice-chancellor, I have hopes we’ll have a print version in the fall. The administration seems to support it. ”

   Dean of Arts and Humanities Erin O’Neill said there’s a very good possibility UAM could have a print version next fall.

Photo by Cara Chenault
Professor Ronald Sitton and wife Tanya

   Sitton hopes to increase the Voice’s staff size, because the more people who get involved, the more campus coverage there will be.

   “We have not yet adequately covered the campus,” he said. “We definitely need to better cover agriculture, and the hard sciences and social sciences.”

   Sitton said the Voice has room to grow and he’s looking forward to the time that happens.

   “I know we can get there,” he said. “We’re just taking baby steps on the way.”

   Sitton said he would send a campus-wide e-mail over the summer that will announce when the Voice staff will meet prior to the semester. Anyone interested in joining or being a contributing writer should contact him at or come to the meeting.

   Sitton enjoys a number of hobbies: fishing, music, working out.

   “My favorite hobby is music,” Sitton said. “I used to say I’d never do anything but sing as long as I could put a roof over my head and shoes on my feet.”

   He sang tenor in Mozart's "Coronation Mass" at New York City's Carnegie Hall in 1989 with the UALR concert hall. He also provided backup vocals and cover art for a CD some guys from Searcy, Ark., released called “GRASSMUSIC for the Era” in 1997.

   Sitton married his wife, Tanya, in December 2004, getting a 12-year-old son, Trevor, in the process.

   “I’ve been blessed,” Sitton said. “I went out with Tanya when we were kids. It didn’t work back then, but we stayed friends and when I came back to Arkansas, that was my opportunity. She’s the best part of my life”

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