Arkansas SPJ awards Dean Duncan Scholarship

The Arkansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has awarded a $1,000 Dean Duncan Scholarship to Nathaly Moreno for the 2017-2018 academic year. The award honors the late, longtime journalism educator at the University of Central Arkansas.

Moreno is a junior at the University of Central Arkansas. A native of Honduras, she is majoring in digital filmmaking and minoring in journalism.

She worked as a writer for her high school newspaper, has worked as a writer and photographer for the UCA yearbook, and plans to work as a photographer for the The Echo, UCA’s student newspaper, during the 2017-18 academic year.

She enjoys collaborating with others and says she has helped and will continue helping classmates and friends with their film projects. 

Her goals include becoming a successful filmmaker, making documentaries and short films, while also working as a photojournalist. She would like to work on the staffs of Time and National Geographic magazines, or work as an independent photojournalist.

Coming from a third-world country,” she says, “I have seen various issues that affect the way people live and how a country develops. I would like to speak about those issues in an audiovisual manner. I also want to explore other countries’ cultures and depict those as well.” 

She is a student staff resident assistant at UCA’s Stadium Park Apartments. In her free time, she enjoys watching movies, playing guitar and singing.

Annual report: Look what ArkansasSPJ did in 2016-2017

Chapter name: Arkansas Pro
Region: 12
Name of person submitting report: Jennifer Ellis
Email of person submitting report:
When did you most recently conduct officer elections? 06-08-2016
Chapter president: Chelsea Boozer
Chapter vice president: Jennifer Ellis
Chapter secretary: Sarah Campbell
Chapter treasurer: Kelly Kissel
Additional board members: Sonny Albarado, Sonny Rhodes, Sarah Morris, Syd Hayman, Iveta Imre, Rob Moritz, Bobby Ampezzan
How many programs and projects did you complete between 5/1/2016 and 4/30/2017? 11
Was your chapter represented at Excellence in Journalism 2016? Yes
If yes, who represented your chapter? Chelsea Boozer, Kelly Kissel, Sonny Albarado, Jennifer Ellis, Sarah Campbell, Syd Hayman
Was your chapter represented at your regional conference? Yes
If yes, who represented your chapter? Kelly Kissel, Sonny Albarado
What is the name ofyour financial institution? Arvest Bank, Little Rock, Arkansas
What is the total balance of your account(s) as of April 30, 2017? $729.48
Reviewer #1 name and email: Board member Calton “Sonny” Rhodes,
Reviewer #2 name and email: Board member Sonny Albarado,
Reviewer #3 name and email: Chapter President Chelsea Boozer,
Did your chapter file a 990? No
If yes, are you submitting a copy of your 990 with this report? No
Are you submitting copies of bank statements with this report? Yes
Are you submitting copies of your bylaws with this report? Yes
If yes to any of the above, please use the “Upload File(s)” button to the right to upload your 990, bank statements and/or bylaws. Arkansas Pro SPJ Bank Statements.pdf

Arkansas Pro SPJ Bylaws.pdf

YOUR PROGRAM OF THE YEAR: What was your signature effort this fiscal year? What was the event that drew the biggest audience and the most attention? #BlackLivesMatter in the Media

This event — which had about 400 people in attendance — was sponsored by the SPJ Arkansas Pro Chapter and the National Park Service/Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, in partnership with the Philander Smith College chapters of Phi Beta Sigma and Zeta Phi Beta.

The keynote address was by Shaun King, a senior justice writer for New York Daily News and a prominent figure in the Black Lives Matter movement.

King’s talk was followed by a panel discussion on how the Black Lives Matter movement has been covered in national, regional and local media. The panel was moderated by Little Rock’s Malik Saafir, president and founder of the Janus Institute for Justice.

The panelists included Ashley Yates of the the St. Louis area, who was an early on-the-ground organizer in Ferguson after the shooting death of Michael Brown; Richard Thompson of Memphis, the founder and lead writer of Mediaverse, an online publication that covers local media, as well as past president of the Memphis Association of Black Journalists; Rae Nelson, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Little Rock chapter; and Shahidah Jones is a represenative of the Official Black Lives Matter Memphis Chapter.

SPJ OUTREACH: What did your chapter do to train or engage the public? We’re looking for anything you did to teach non-journalists about journalism. Campaign Finance and Transparency

This Sunshine Week event hosted by the SPJ Arkansas Pro Chapter and Arkansas Public Media drew about 40 people. Many were not journalists, but were lawyers or citizens interested in the legislative process. We had a discussion on proposed FOIA exemptions and journalists got the chance to tell lawmakers face-to-face how FOIA laws help the public and how their proposed exemptions were harmful.

Local journalist Benji Hardy moderated the discussion, which included talks by Reps. Jana Della Rosa, R-Rogers, and Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, who each sponsored bills to make Arkansas elections and government more transparent, and Rep. Bob Ballinger, R-Berryville, who believes in protecting the privacy of political speech through private organizations, and Alicia Bannon, who leads the Brennan Center’s fair courts work and will discuss dark money in judicial elections.

STUDENT OUTREACH: Did your chapter present sessions at scholastic press association conferences or college media conventions? Did you visit high school or college classes as guest lecturers? Our chapter has made an effort to reach out to the local colleges’ student chapters. We partnered with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s SPJ chapter on our Black Lives Matters event and our Women in the Media event. The school’s film club also partnered with us to film one of the events. Our chapter president has spoken to the college’s student newspaper and SPJ chapter. We have three professors on our SPJ Arkansas Pro board, so they keep in contact with the student groups.
SCHOLARSHIPS: Did your chapter offer high school and/or college scholarships to students pursuing a career in journalism? We funded one $1,000 scholarship to a college student pursuing a career in journalism.
ETHICS: Did your chapter teach journalism ethics to journalists or the public in your service area? Law School for Communicators

This event sponsored by the SPJ Arkansas Pro Chapter, the Arkansas Press Association and the Public Relations Society of America included a full day of training and lunch with a $25 registration fee for members of the sponsoring organizations and $40 fee for non-members. About 50 people attended. The professional development focused on legal issues that affect the practice of public relations and journalism. The keynote address was by West Memphis 3 attorney Blake Hendrix on “What Attorneys wish Communicators Understood about the Law” and sessions included Understanding & Covering Civil, Criminal Cases; HIPPA; Photography Law & Fair Use; Free Speech & Employment Law; FOIA Rules & Procedures; and Working with Legal Teams in Crisis.

FOI: Did you offer FOI programs? Did you partner with other organizations to defend press freedom in your service area? Did you lobby or protest for FOI? Our Campaign Finance and Transparency event focused on proposed FOIA exemptions that were currently in the legislative process. Our SPJ chapter also works with the local Arkansas Press Association, which has an FOI Coalition. Several of our SPJ board members serve on the Coalition, which lobbies against FOIA exemptions. We also successfully lobbied for the creation of a new legislative committee that would review any proposed changes to the FOIA in future sessions before the bills are allowed to go to committee or the floor. The SPJ Arkansas Pro chapter will have a representative on that committee. We also revived our chapter’s FOIA committee this year, which is off to a great start.

We also sponsored the SPJ AFTER DEADLINE mixer this year, which had a discussion focus on FOI.

DIVERSITY: Did you teach diversity to journalists or partner with diversity media groups to promote the concept? We sponsored two diversity programs including Journalism and Islam: Halal Food for Thought and Women in the Media.

About 60 people attended Journalism and Islam: Halal Food for Thought. At the event we offered a free halal dinner and frank discussion about how Muslims are covered in the news at home and abroad. When should reporters mention the faith of a source? Are there stories that aren’t being covered? What terms should be avoided and more. 

Imam Mahmoud Al-Denawy Hassanein of the Islamic Center of Little Rock gave us a tour of the mosque and several of the center’s members shared information about Islam and their thoughts on coverage of Muslims in the media. Participants had the chance to ask questions and mingle with members of the center. 

Our hope was that we would learn from each other, and that we come away with a better understanding of how to cover the Muslim community.

About 40 people attended our Women in the Media event. The SPJ Arkansas Pro Chapter partnered with Arkansas Press Women to present a Women in the Media panel Saturday, March 11, at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock campus. The event included four panelists and one moderator, all women, who shared their various experiences working in print, broadcast and radio. 

The panelists were Gwen Mortiz, editor of Arkansas Business; Raven Richard, weather anchor and reporter at THV11, a CBS affiliate; Jill Bleed, breaking news reporter at the Associated Press; and Ibby Caputo, who provided the keynote presentation on pay and whose work has aired on NPR and appeared on Mariel Ruiz, meteorologist at THV11, moderated the panel.

Topics of discussion for the panelists included which roles in media feel closed to young women, instances when gender was blatantly an issue in the newsroom and what advantages women may have in the newsroom.

SPJ SUPPORT: Did your chapter help judge the Mark of Excellence or Sigma Delta Chi awards? What about regional and other chapters’ awards? Contests from other organizations? Yes and we fund our own regional awards program – the Diamond Journalism Awards – which honor journalism excellence in Arkansas (the Diamond State) and bordering media markets in West Tennessee, East Oklahoma, South Missouri and North Louisiana.

We also help several other groups judge their contests, including 2017 Heart of America Awards by the Kansas City Press Club, the Sunshine State Awards, SPJ Green Eyeshade Awards and contests in Texas.

MEMBERSHIP: How many members did you gain or lose this fiscal year? What specific actions did you take to retain or recruit members? Any innovative efforts? We currently have 34 members as of May 17, but we usually gain members at our annual mixer in June when we have a membership table set up and tell people about our events. We have eliminated local chapter dues in an effort to make joining more enticing.

We also hosted the SPJ After Deadline mixers.

COMMUNICATION: What did your chapter do to keep members informed about chapter activities? Do you publish a newsletter? Communicate via an email string? Can you provide links to a chapter Web site(s), Facebook page, Twitter account, or other ways you reach members? We do monthly email blasts announcing our events as well as send email reminders about the event the week or day before the event. We have an active Facebook page and create event pages. We also have a Twitter account and website.

Our website is:

Twitter: @ArkansasSPJ


FUNDRAISING: Did your chapter conduct any fundraising activities this year? Explain your efforts and the results. We use proceeds, about $5,000 annually, from our $100,000 investment account to fund our programs and scholarships.
Did your chapter complete any other activities during the year not explained above? Do any of the above activities require elaboration? If desired please provide no more than 250 additional words to support your annual report. Another event the Arkansas Pro Chapter hosted was Math for Journalists. Let’s face it: 80 percent of journalists are bad at math and the other half are good at it. There were about 40 people who attended this lunchtime refresher. The topics presented by Kelly P. Kissel included

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics; Outliers; Percentage vs. Percentage Point – There is a difference; Household Math Tricks (Try This At Home); and Beware The Decimal. Kissel has been Arkansas news editor for The Associated Press since 1994 and Oklahoma news editor since 2009. He’s had to deal with a lot of numbers, including Election Day vote counts, government budgets, political polling and the checkbook for the Arkansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Call for Candidates for SPJ Arkansas Board Members

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. Included in that number are the officers: President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary.

Check out the following duties and responsibilities of board members and consider running for the board or a 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 SPJ President Chelsea Boozer at by Friday, May 26 if you intend to run.

A list of candidates and their bios will be emailed to our membership. Voting will take place at the June 28 annual meeting (and via email for those who can’t attend.) (Location and time to be decided.)

The 2016-2017 SPJ Board of Directors recommends the following candidates: Jennifer Sue Ellis for President and Bobby Ampezzan for Treasurer.

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 any 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 Elects New Officers, Board

The Arkansas Society of Professional Journalists elected new officers and board members at its meeting Wednesday, June 8.

2016-17 officers and board
President, Chelsea Boozer, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Vice President, Jennifer Ellis, ADG
Secretary, Sarah Campbell, Arkansas Business
Treasurer, Kelly P. Kissel, The Associated Press

The board:
Sonny Albarado, ADG
Sydney Hayman, ADG*
Claudia Lauer, AP*
John Lyon, Arkansas News Bureau
Rob Moritz, University of Central Arkansas
Sarah Morris, Jonesboro Sun
Sonny Rhodes, University of Arkansas at Little Rock

NOTE: * = new to the board.

Coming Soon

Diamond Journalism Awards

After a three-year absence from the journalism contest field, the Arkansas Pro Chapter of SPJ returns this summer with the Diamond Journalism Awards.

This is a brand new contest, not just a revival, with more categories and a broader reach.

Taking its name from one of Arkansas’ identities — the Diamond State — the Diamond Journalism Awards will recognize outstanding journalism by professionals and students regardless of format, not just from Arkansas but beyond its borders.

The contest covers work published or broadcast between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016.

You’ll be able to start submitting entries July 1. Entry deadline will be July 27.

More details in a few days.

Sonny Albarado, chapter contest coordinator


Cocktails, a contest and good conversation

The Society of Professional Journalists, Arkansas Pro Chapter will host a cocktail mixer this Thursday, Aug. 27, from 5:30 until whenever at 109 and Co., 109 Main St., Little Rock, Ark. Come meet your fellow Arkansas journalists and enjoy a few specialty cocktails!

See the flyer below for more info. A big thank you to board members Jennifer Ellis and Chelsea Boozer for planning this!


#SPJdesk Contest

A New Year For SPJ In Arkansas

The attendees of the Arkansas SPJ annual membership meeting today elected a new board for the group. Your officers, mostly returning for a second year, are:

President: Kelly MacNeil
Vice-President: John Lyon (replacing Rob Moritz)
Treasurer: Kelly Kissell
Secretary: Andrew Demillo

Board members returning for a second term are:
Rob Moritz
Sonny Albarado
Ron Sitton
John Thompson

New board members are:
Sonny Rhodes, journalism professor at UALR
Sarah Morris, reporter at the Stuttgart Daily Leader
Eric Francis, freelancer

The board is scouting a new location for SPJ’s annual banquet this September. So if you know a reasonably-priced facility that can handle about 65 people and an a/v presentation, please let us know!

Annual Membership Meeting

All Arkansas SPJ members are invited to come to the full-membership meeting next Monday, July 11th, at noon.

The meeting will be held at the Stephens Media office on Main St. in Little Rock.

We’ll be electing a new board for the year. Here are the nominations:

President: Kelly MacNeil
Vice-President: John Lyon
Treasurer: Kelly Kissel
Secretary: Andrew Demillo
Sonny Albarado
John Thompson
Rob Moritz
Ron Sitton
Eric Francis
Sonny Rhodes

We’ll also accept nominations from the floor.  There are still two openings.

The board will convene immediately after the full membership meeting adjourns, to address business including adjustments to the scholarship program, and plans for the annual banquet this fall.

Hope you can attend!