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

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