CALL FOR CANDIDATES: Arkansas SPJ seeks members for 2020-21 Board of Directors

CALL FOR CANDIDATES: Arkansas SPJ seeks members for 2020-21 Board of Directors

The Arkansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will hold its annual board election at its June membership mixer. Want to get involved? Consider running for a seat.

The Arkansas SPJ Board of Directors has 11 seats that are up for election each year, including executive officers: president, vice president, treasurer and secretary.

Check out the following duties and responsibilities of board members and consider running for the board or an officer position. Send a photo and a brief bio that tells why you want to serve as an SPJ leader, your history with SPJ and what you will bring to the group, including any ideas you have for the coming year, to Arkansas SPJ President Sarah DeClerk by Friday, June 12.

A list of candidates and their bios will be posted 30 days prior to the election and emailed to our membership. Voting will take place at the annual meeting (time/date/location to be decided) and via email for those who can’t attend.

Don’t want to be a board member? Get involved in one of our committees.

Duties and Responsibilities
To ensure the health of the Society of Professional Journalists Arkansas Pro Chapter, the members of the Board of Directors must be current on national dues and be accountable for the following duties and responsibilities:

The Board of Directors meets monthly, and sometimes calls special meetings via phone or email. Board members must attend a minimum of nine monthly meetings during their July-to-June term of office, but strive to make it to all meetings or phone in. Absence from three consecutive meetings, or four or more monthly meetings during their term, will result in the appointment of a new director to the position.

Board members must actively participate in at least one of the following chapter committees: Freedom of Information Act, Programing, Contests, Membership and Marketing, or other special committee designated by the president. Active participation may include planning at least one event in a year, advancement of the FOIA through lobbying, contributions to the chapter’s website, newsletter or social media campaigns, or other efforts determined by the board.

Arkansas SPJ hosts Every Day I’m Husslin’ freelance program

Arkansas SPJ hosts Every Day I’m Husslin’ freelance program

Learn what it takes to make it in the freelance game from two pros whose livelihoods depend on it at 6 p.m. March 11 at Damgoode Pies in the River Market.

Erica Sweeney is a full-time freelance writer based in Little Rock. She previously worked in local media, but now solely writes for national media outlets, including The New York Times, HuffPost, Parade,, Fast Company and lots more. She doesn’t believe there’s one special recipe for a successful freelance career, but enjoys sharing what she’s learned along the way, including finding gigs, pitching stories, understanding rates and embodying traits that make the freelance lifestyle work.

Dwain Hebda is a freelance journalist, editor and president of Little Rock-based editorial services company Ya!Mule Wordsmiths. His work appears in approximately 35 local publications in three states, as well as a growing number of corporate clients including advertising firms, Main Street banks, University of Arkansas System eVersity and the Arkansas State Fair. Nebraskan by birth, Southern by the grace of God,
he and his wife shower their affection on their four grown children and three spoiled dogs.
Questions? Comments. #FreelanceHussle
This event is brought to you by the Arkansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists Arkansas SPJ

Earn Your Diamonds

Enter the 2020 Diamond Journalism Awards Today!

Attention professional and student journalists in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas:

The 2020 Diamond Journalism Awards entry period is underway.

Sponsored by the Arkansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the Diamond Journalism Awards is open to any professional or student journalist, including freelancers, working in Arkansas and bordering states (Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas and Tennessee).

Eligible work must have been published or broadcast between Jan. 1, 2019, and Dec. 31, 2019.

Entries are now being accepted online at Submitted entries can be either pdfs or URL links or both. No Word documents accepted.

The entry deadline is March 20, 2020

For details on entry rules and requirements please visit here.

To pay for entries, go here.

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,