The Modern News is the oldest weekly newspaper in the United States operating under the founder's name and continuously owned and published by a member of the family. It is also the oldest established weekly paper in Arkansas.
L.D. Freeman, Sr., who had worked at the Memphis Avalanche and edited the Wynne Ripshaw, bought the newspaper in Harrisburg. Records show L.D.'s brother, Foster, owned the Arkansas Tribune in the late 1870s and early 1880s.
The single story structure was the first brick building between Helena and Poplar Bluff. It was made in a simple rectangular fashion. Originally, it had a flat roof with a skylight. The building was named to the National Register of Historic Places on June 18, 1976.
For a country print shop in the early days, surely one of the worst chores was setting type by hand and then redistributing it in the type cases after the paper was printed. Finally, when a machine was invented to set the type through a keyboard, L.D. Freeman was one of the first customers. In 1895, he bought a typesetting machine, which was a monstrous steam-powered contraption run through a maze of belts, pulleys, shafts, and gears. It took weeks of toil just to get it off the boat at Memphis, hauled to Harrisburg and set up.
After many breakdowns, wrong fonts, damaged type and skinned knuckles, L.D. Freeman decided to go back to hand setting the type. Unfortunately, nobody would haul it away, so he finally hired a crew to crawl under the shop, dig a hole under the machine, cut the floor out from under it, let it fall into the excavation and then poured cement over the whole business.
In 1910, L.D. purchased one of the first gasoline engines in the county, a Stover engine, to run the printing press. Nine years later, his son Ewell became a partner in the paper, followed by L.D., Jr. When L.D., Sr., died, the brothers continued operation under the name Freeman Brothers. This lasted until Ewell's death in 1949. Around 1962, L.D., Jr., had problems finding help running the press, so the paper then began being printed outside of Harrisburg. In 1976 L.D., Jr., died. His widow Hazel Garvey Freeman, who started working with her husband in the early '50s, began publishing the paper. In August of 1977, Hazel's son-in-law Charles D. Nix took over as general manager.
The paper has served the needs of Harrisburg and Poinsett County for 123 years and printed over 6,300 editions. The Modern News is committed to the community it serves and in the 123 years of printing it has never missed a publication.