No Fooling: Arkansas SPJ offers two $1K scholarships for 2020-21 — Application deadline is April 1

No Fooling: Arkansas SPJ offers two $1K scholarships for 2020-21 — Application deadline is April 1

Society of Professional Journalists — Arkansas Pro Chapter
Instructions for scholarship application
Application Deadline is April 1, 2020

Applications will be reviewed after all the necessary documents have been received. Only those applications and supporting materials emailed or postmarked by the April 1, 2020, deadline will be considered.

Besides the application, you must submit:

1. An essay about your career aspirations and any personal information deemed relevant
(500-word maximum) to demonstrate your writing ability.

2. Two letters of reference, one from a person familiar with your abilities.

3. A transcript of college grades through the Fall 2019 semester.

4. Three examples of your work and any other relevant information.

Please note: All application information will be held in strict confidence. Applications are destroyed after a decision is reached and announced.

Scholarships will be given only to a sophomore, junior, or senior attending
an Arkansas college or university during the 2020-21 school year. An applicant must be
majoring or minoring in a journalism, public relations, or an associated communications emphasis. Each scholarship will be awarded to a full-time student on the basis of need,
academic achievement, and distinguished ability in media-related fields.

Visit to submit your application online or email this Application and accompanying materials to or send the materials by mail, no later than April 1, 2020, to:

Sonny Rhodes
School of Mass Communication
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
2801 South University Avenue
Little Rock, AR 72204

Arkansas SPJ condemns TV reporter’s 3-day jail sentence for recording in courtroom

Arkansas SPJ condemns TV reporter’s 3-day jail sentence for recording in courtroom

The Arkansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, along with SPJ’s Region 12 coordinator, call on Circuit Judge Brad Karren to withdraw the unjust and improper jail sentence he imposed on KNWA-TV journalist Nkiruka Azuka Omeronye for recording audio in his courtroom.

In addition to the unsettling three-day jail sentence, the judge placed Omeronye on six months probation and barred her from covering a murder trial in his court.

We consider the judge’s actions to be excessive and disrespectful of the public service provided by journalists to all citizens interested in the judicial process,” said Arkansas SPJ chapter President Sarah DeClerk.

As reported by various media, Omeronye said she made the recording for note-taking purposes only to ensure accuracy, a common practice in many courtrooms, including at the federal level.

Omeronye said she was unaware of Judge Karren’s order banning recording in his court, and she apologized for violating that order.

We believe her apology should have been sufficient. So did the judge, apparently, based on this quote from him in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: I think you have shown the proper remorse,” Karren said. “I don’t think you were thumbing your nose at the court.”

Yet the judge decided jail time was warranted for a journalist just trying to do her job and to ensure that her report would be accurate.

We deplore Judge Karren’s decision and again call on him to remove the sanctions he has imposed on  Omeronge.

The Society of Professional Journalists is the nation’s oldest and most broad-based journalism organization. SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.

Other SPJ chapters in support of this condemnation include, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Arkansas SPJ gets new president, VP

Arkansas SPJ gets new president, VP

After being elected the Society of Professional Journalists Region 12 coordinator at the national conference in September, Arkansas SPJ’s three-term president, Jennifer Ellis, resigned the presidency today at the chapter’s board meeting. She will continue to serve as a member of the board of directors.

The board unanimously voted to approve a succession plan put forth by Ellis naming Sarah DeClerk president and Wendy Miller vice president. DeClerk previously served as vice president, and Miller served as co-treasurer with Rob Moritz, who will continue as the sole treasurer. Maggie McNeary remains the chapter’s secretary. In addition to Arkansas, Region 12 includes, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Arkansas SPJ is in good hands. We’ve worked hard these last few years to improve and protect journalism in our state and I’m confident our chapter will continue to be a standout,” Ellis said. “I look forward to encouraging communication and collaboration throughout our region for a Society that’s as vibrant as we are.”

Updated 2018-2019 Board Candidates long.indd

Arkansas SPJ wins small Chapter of the Year, student relations award

At the Society of Professional Journalists opening business meeting during the Excellence in Journalism 2019 conference in San Antonio on Sept. 5, from left, are Arkansas SPJ board members Sarah DeClerk, vice president; Wendy Miller, treasurer; and Jennifer Ellis, president. Arkansas Pro won Small Chapter of the Year for the second year in a row, as well as a Circle of Excellence award in the area of student relations.

Circle of Excellence Awards recognize chapters that perform outstanding work in the areas of student relations (formerly campus relations), professional development, diversity and Freedom of Information Act/First Amendment. The winners in these categories are finalists for Chapter of the Year.

“Not long after the Capital Gazette newsroom shootings, the Arkansas chapter explored what it was like to report in the face of tragedy. A former TV anchor recalled her colleagues having to go on the air to report the news of their friend’s homicide. Other participants also told compelling stories. The chapter sold T-shirts to raise $500 for a fund to help the Capital Gazette,” said SPJ national president J. Alex Tarquinio.

The chapter was praised for inviting the public to events focused on immigration coverage, police and the press and FOI.

“One of the most fun events was called “Get the Scoop … and Check the Facts,” a traveling ice cream social. With actual ice cream scoops to give away, the series visited several college campuses and covered topics such as cultivating sources,” Tarquinio said.

“During Sunshine Week, one of the chapter’s FOIA blitz events was a FOI trivia game over pizza and beer. The chapter is helping to pay the cost of printing a state FOI handbook and is active in a state FOIA network,” she added.

SPJ’s 12 regional directors selected Arkansas Pro for these awards based on recommendations by the Directors-at-Large.

Chapter president Jennifer Ellis, Zoned Editions Editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette was sworn in as SPJ’s Region 12 Coordinator at the closing business meeting on Sept. 7.

To join this award-winning chapter, visit

Arkansas SPJ to host Sports Reporting For Rookies

Arkansas SPJ to host Sports Reporting For Rookies

A Sports Reporting Workshop For Rookies

5:30 – 8 p.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 21
North Little Rock High School
201 W. 22nd St., North Little Rock

Don’t just sit in the bleachers! Tackle the world of sports reporting with the Arkansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21. Come out to North Little Rock High School for an opportunity to tour the student TV station and the Charging Wildcat Football Stadium pressbox. Following the tour, professional , award-winning journalists will participate in a panel discussion about all things sports reporting. With topics ranging from Freedom of Information regarding high school and college athletics, to diversity in the field, this is a great opportunity to hear the Xs and Os from the pros. Oh yeah, and there will be pizza!

RSVP via Facebook or email Wendy Miller at by Tuesday, Aug. 20.

Make a donation toward the printing of the 2020 Arkansas Freedom of Information Handbook and enter for a chance to win an All-Arkansas Preps football autographed by LA Charger and former Razorback Hunter Henry!

Panelists: Bruce Guthrie, Searcy Daily Citizen; Dorian Craft, THV 11; and Jeremy Muck, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Moderated by Nate Olson,

Arkansas SPJ launches new Mentor Match program

Arkansas Pro Chapter
Society of Professional Journalists

For immediate release:

The Society of Professional Journalists Arkansas Pro Chapter is proud to present its new Mentor Match program, which aims to match less experienced media professionals and students with their senior counterparts.

Mentees would ideally be college students, interns, young reporters or journalists who would like some guidance. Mentors will likely have several years of experience, be editors or managers, or have an interest in giving back to the news community.

A mentee can also be a mentor – those with more experience are encouraged to give back.

Arkansas SPJ will host regular meetups to help foster the relationships between mentor/mentee pairs, starting with a kickoff event at 6 p.m. Monday, July 29, at Fassler Hall, 311 E. Capitol Ave. in Little Rock. RSVP for that event here:

Mentor Match aims to provide mentees with mentors in the Arkansas news industry. Mentee status is exclusive to chapter members, so join now at Find your mentor (or mentee) through our application at

About Arkansas SPJ

The Arkansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists meets monthly for programs and networking in central Arkansas. Membership is available to all professional journalists in good standing with the national Society of Professional Journalists. Learn more about Arkansas SPJ at or follow us on social media.

The chapter was recognized nationally in 2018 as a Circle of Excellence Award winner for professional development and received the Outstanding Professional Chapter recognition for a small chapter.

Media Contact

Maggie McNeary
Arkansas SPJ Secretary

Arkansas SPJ condemns Civil Service Commission’s broadcasting ban

Arkansas SPJ condemns Civil Service Commission’s broadcasting ban

Arkansas Pro Chapter
Society of Professional Journalists

For immediate release:

The Little Rock Civil Service Commission raised First Amendment concerns Tuesday by approving a new rule that allows its chairman to ban any means of recording during public hearings, and during a hearing for a fired police officer Thursday, officials ejected at least two people from the room for recording the proceedings.

As an organization that supports and protects the freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, the Arkansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists condemns the commission’s decision.

The new rule is bad news for news media and the local community. It also runs afoul of the Arkansas’ Freedom of Information Act, which guarantees citizens access to public meetings and public records. Several attorneys general have opined that citizens have the right to record public meetings.

The timing of the adoption of the new rule is also suspicious, coming as it did two days before the hearing of fired police officer Charles Starks, who ignited public outrage after fatally shooting Bradley Blackshire of Little Rock. Commissioners maintain the timing is coincidental.

While the new rule states that the chairman “may” allow broadcasting that does not distract participants or impair courtroom proceedings, it still goes too far.

Since most Little Rock residents will not be able to attend the Starks hearing, community members will turn to the media for updates about the case. The broadcasting ban will hinder news outlets’ ability to disseminate information about this and other public hearings, thus restricting both media and public access.

While restrictions on court proceedings are sometimes necessary, effectively prohibiting taping of these public hearings places an undue burden on news gathering and inappropriately restricts access to public information.

It is worth noting that the new state law, which took effect Wednesday, July 24, requires public bodies to record their public sessions and to make those records available to citizens. While the law doesn’t address citizen recording of meetings, it shows lawmakers’ intent that public meetings be accessible to all.

We urge the Little Rock Civil Service Commission to reconsider and rescind its rule allowing its chairman to ban recording and broadcast of public hearings.

Signed on behalf of the Arkansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists,

Jennifer Ellis, president
Sarah DeClerk, vice president