The Arkansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will present Public information officers and the press: Advancing the free flow of information, a discussion about the relationships between public information officers and the media at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 30.
The event moderated by KATV reporter Brenda Lepenski will take place at the Arkansas Press Association, 411 S. Victory Street in Little Rock, for those who would like to attend in person or online at https://us06web.zoom.us/j/89982273967.
Featured speakers include Bill Sadler, PIO for the Arkansas State Police, and communication directors Cindy Murphy of the Arkansas Department of Corrections, Aaron Sadler of the office of Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. and Pamela Smith of the Little Rock School District.
About the moderator:
Arkansas SPJ board member Brenda Lepenski joined the Channel 7 News team in March of 2022 as a general assignment reporter. Prior to working at KATV, Lepenski worked as a multimedia journalist in Lubbock, Texas. She also worked for a Spanish TV station in Irving, Texas where she helped produce newscasts for Dallas, Houston, and Miami.
Lepenski is fluent in Spanish. She grew up in Bossier City, La. and is originally from Juarez, Mexico. Her name is Polish, given to her by her adopted family.
She’s a proud member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and has served as vice president of the Dallas chapter where she’s helped in the effort to raise scholarship funds for aspiring journalism and communication students.
She’s a former student at Louisiana Tech University and a graduate of University of Texas at El Paso.
Lepenski is looking to explore more of the Natural State and to serve the community by telling stories that matter.
About the panelists:
Bill Sadler grew up in a newspaper family in Rison, where his grandfather bought the Cleveland County Herald in 1923. Bill started working at the paper in the backshop, learned to write, photograph, “and all the other demons that come with a weekly newspaper,” he said. His family sold the paper in 2002.
He attended Arkansas State University and worked as a reporter and photographer at the Jonesboro Sun, Malvern Daily Record and Pine Bluff News.
In 1976, Bill Sadler joined the staff of KARK as a reporter/photographer assigned to Pine Bluff; then, in 1996, he went to work as a field producer for NBC News affiliates division. His first assignment covered TWA Flight 800, which exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean after takeoff killing all 230 people on board.
He became a PIO in May 1997.
“Ten months into the job I was thrown to the wolves as lead spokesman for the Arkansas State Police, Craighead County Sheriff’s Department, Prosecuting Attorney and Juvenile Judge in the aftermath of the Westside School shooting,” Bill Sadler said.
He is still at the job 25 years later.
Aaron Sadler (no relation to Bill) is a veteran communicator with experience in both public relations and newspaper reporting. He is currently Communications Director for Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr., and before that he led communications for five attorneys general in five states.
He is a staunch advocate for the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act, having been a correspondent for Stephens Media in both Little Rock and Washington. He has also worked for the Arkansas Press Association and the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality.
A Trumann native, Sadler is a graduate of Arkansas State University.
Cindy Murphy spent more than 11 years at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, where she covered city hall for four years and wrote for the family section in the popular “Forces of Nurture” column about the challenges, joys and misadventures of parenting; she was a website editor, then a special projects reporter for more than seven years, during which time she was responsible for writing award-winning, in-depth articles on a number of topics, including the Arkansas Crime Lab, cold cases, various city and state agencies and related legislative initiatives.
She conducted exhaustive investigations into fraud, corruption and public spending. In addition, Murphy specialized in human interest stories that required the ability to relate to victims, their families, and the agencies involved.
After leaving the paper, Murphy served as communications director for Arkansas Attorney General’s Office under Dustin McDaniel, then as public affairs director and community engagement director under Leslie Rutledge. She worked briefly as public outreach division manager for Arkansas Energy and Environment before joining the Arkansas Department of Corrections in May 2020.
Pamela Smith has been the Communications Director for the Little Rock School District, Arkansas’ second-largest district, since April 2012, where she is responsible for guiding internal and external communications, marketing, and public relations efforts. Smith is a 30-year communications veteran who has enjoyed a career that spans public relations, radio/television broadcast, and print.
Smith previously served as co-host of Good Morning Arkansas and Weekend Anchor for KATV. Smith joined KATV’s staff in 1990 as a General Assignment Reporter and was soon promoted to Weekend Anchor, assuming the role of co-host of the station’s popular GMA program in August 2011. Because she has a keen insight into media relations and is passionate about issues that impact the state’s youth and elderly populations, she is equally excited to now work on behalf of the 22,000 plus students in LRSD and brings a breadth of experience to her role as lead communicator. In addition to her lengthy television career, Smith also served as on-air talent and news director for the top-rated Broadway Joe Radio Show in Little Rock for more than a decade and was a monthly contributor to AETN and AY Magazine.