Finalists named in 2021 Diamond Journalism Awards

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The Arkansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists takes pride in announcing the finalists for the 2021 Diamond Journalism Awards, a regional competition that recognizes outstanding journalism by professionals and students from Arkansas and bordering states.

Winners in more than 75 categories as well as the Diamond Journalist of the Year, the Outstanding New Journalist , and the Robert McCord FOI Award will be announced at a virtual awards ceremony on June 30. More details coming soon.

This year’s contest honors work published or broadcast in 2020, drew a record 393 entries and was judged by members of the Cincinnati Pro Chapter of SPJ.

Here are the finalists listed by the publication or other outlet in which their entries appeared:

ABOUT the River Valley Magazine, Russellville, Ark.

Johnny Carrol Sain, Hannah Butler, Kenzie Sain

Arkansas Catholic

Dwain Hebda

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Little Rock

Stephen Simpson, Williams Sanders, Jeannie Roberts, Joseph Flaherty, Thomas Metthe, Stephen Swofford, Staton Breidenthal, Yutao Chen, Maggie McNeary, Carrie Hill, Justin Cunningham, Stan Denman, Brian Smith, Joe Luciano, Tony Holt, Ginny Monk, Kat Stromquist, Bill Bowden, Terry Austin, David Barham, Walter Hussman, Philip Martin, Morgan Acuff, Sarah DeClerk, Dwain Hebda, Democrat-Gazette staff

ADG River Valley and Ozark Edition, Little Rock

Tammy Keith

Arkansas Money & Politics, Little Rock

Tyler Hale, Mark Carter, Evin Demirel, Rebecca Robertson

Arkansas Nonprofit News Network, Little Rock

Dwain Hebda

The Associated Press, Little Rock

Andrew DeMillo

AY Magazine, Little Rock

Dustin Jayroe, Rebecca Robertson, Jamison Mosley, Lora Puls, Heather Baker, Ebony Blevins, Jamison Mosley, Ian Lyle, Dwain Hebda

The Batesville Guard, Arkansas

Bruce Guthrie

Baxter Regional Pulse, Arkansas

Sarah Knight

Curbside Chronicle, Oklahoma City

Mollie Bryant, Nathan Poppe, Miguel Rios, George Lang, Nazarene Harris, Jacquelyn Walsh, Sydni Nasada, Ryan Magnani, Joshua Boydston, Jayna Hadwiger, Ben Felder, Kassie McClung, Nate Ward, Katrina Ward

The Daily Citizen, Searcy, AR

Greg Geary

The Daily Record, Little Rock

Dwain Hebda

Do South Magazine

Dwain Hebda

FOX16 News, Little Rock

Kevin Kelly

Houston Business Journal, Texas

Jeff Jeffrey, Chris Mathews, Margaret Barrientos, Sara Samora, Laura Gillespie, Shafaq Patel, Giselle Greenwood

Jackson Free Press, Mississippi

Nick Judin, Kayode Crown, Donna Ladd

KATC-TV, Lafayette, La.

Andrew Clay, Staff

KOLR-TV, Springfield, Mo.

Brian Calfano, Lissa Hamblen

KPEJ-TV, Midland-Odessa, Texas

Monica Quintero


Anna Stitt, Daniel Breen, Sarah Kellogg, Alexandria Brown


Rosemond Crown, Gordon Collier, Clint Webb, Megan Vanselow, Drake Lawson, Bill Gowdy

KXAN-TV, Austin, Texas

Alex Caprariello

Leader Newspaper, Jacksonville, Ark.

Rick Kron

Louisiana College, Pineville

Elizabeth Christian

Mississippi Free Press, Jackson

Ashton Pittman, William Pittman, Christian Middleton, Donn Ladd, Aliyah Veal, Mauricio J. Quijano

Politico, Arlington, Va.

Bret Schulte

Richmond News, Missouri

Jack “Miles” Ventimiglia

Riverfront Times, St. Louis

Danny Wicentowski

Texas Observer, Austin

Amal Ahmed, Chris O’Connell, Savannah Maher

The Trucker, Little Rock

Wendy Miller, Linda Garner-Bunch, Lyndon Finney, Sam Pierce, The Trucker Editorial Staff

WVLT-TV, Knoxville

Ashley Bohle, Brittany Tarwater, Keith Smith, WVLT Staff


Louisiana State University (Reveille, LSU Tiger TV, LSU Manship News Service, KLSU-FM) Baton Rouge

Katherine Manuel, Anna Jones, Bailey Williams, Alyssa Berry, Matthew Clark, Sydney McGovern, Karli Carpenter, Kendall Duncan, Ally Kadlubar, Caleb Greene, Bailey Chauvin, Reed Darcey, Jared Brodtmann, Luke Chevalier, Marie Plunkett, Evan Leonhard, Cecile Girard, Sofia McKentry

Louisiana College, Wildcats Media, Pineville

Alena Noakes, Joel Thompson, Aaron Quartemont

Arkansas State University, Delta Digital News Service, Jonesboro

Christine Miyawa, Tristan Bennett, Krishnan Collins, Chase Gage

University of Central Arkansas, The Echo, Conway

Ronak Patel, Lauren McLemore, Morgan Jenkins, Delaney Van Wilpe, Elvira Toddy, Megan Holder

The State of Minority-Led Media

The State of Minority-Led Media

Join the Arkansas SPJ at 10 a.m. Friday, April 30 for a Zoom webinar about minority-led media in Arkansas. Panelists will include Michel Leidermann, director and editor of El Latino; Wes Brown, who is publisher of the Daily Record and recently launched; and Janis Kearney, who served briefly as managing editor for civil rights legend Daisy L. Bates’ historic Arkansas State Press Newspaper. The panel will be moderated by Sarah DeClerk, president of the Arkansas SPJ. For more information, contact DeClerk at 501-259-1379 or

Please click the link below to join the webinar:
Passcode: ArkPro

RSVP on Facebook:

Arkansas SPJ Launches Ethics to Ethics Card Game

Arkansas SPJ Launches Ethics to Ethics Card Game

The Arkansas Pro Chapter of The Society of Professional Journalists recently released “Ethics to Ethics” a card game based on the SPJ Code of Ethics that was inspired by games such as Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity. Sarah DeClerk, chapter president, said she hopes the game will provide aspiring and established journalists with a fun, educational activity to enjoy while social distancing.

“I think it’s good to interact with journalism ethics in a playful way,” DeClerk said. “I hope that the game will provide moments of joy that could also spark conversations about real-world ethical situations.”

The Ethics to Ethics instructions and deck can be downloaded below. For more information, contact DeClerk at

Arkansas SPJ to update bylaws

The Arkansas Pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists plans to update its bylaws. Please see the proposed new bylaws below. Chapter members may send a proposed amendment to the bylaws within 15 days (by Oct. 10, 2020), at which time the bylaws will be adopted. If you have any questions, contact chapter president Sarah DeClerk at
Bylaws of The Arkansas Pro Chapter,
Society of Professional Journalists
P.O. Box 2221
Little Rock, Ark. 72203
(Revised Sept. 21, 2020)
The Society of Professional Journalists is the oldest, most broad-based journalism organization in the United States, founded in April 1909 as an honorary journalistic fraternity, Sigma Delta Chi. In 1916, SDX became a professional fraternity and, in 1960, reorganized itself from a fraternity into a professional society. It changed its name to the Society of Professional Journalists, Sigma Delta Chi in 1973 and again to Society of Professional Journalists in 1988 to reflect its inclusiveness of all who work as journalists.
The Society, organized as a 501(c)6 tax-exempt professional association, has chapters throughout the country that operate as independent entities but adhere to the parent organization’s mission and purpose.
The Arkansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists was formally installed at Little Rock on December 15, 1961, as the Little Rock Chapter of Sigma Delta Chi. It became the Arkansas Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, Sigma Delta Chi, upon vote of its members and approval of the SPJ, SDX National Board of Directors in July 1976. The chapter’s name now reflects the national organization’s 1988 name change.
We do hereby establish and ordain these Bylaws of the Arkansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists to support the mission of the national Society of Professional Journalists. Like the national organization, the Arkansas Pro Chapter encourages the free flow of information as essential to American self-governance, seeks to protect the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and the press, stimulates high standards and ethical behavior in the practice of journalism, inspires and educates current and future journalists through professional development, and encourages diversity and inclusion in the field of journalism.
Section One: The name of this organization shall be: Arkansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Section Two: Journalism Defined: Journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information. It is also the product of these activities and the teaching or study of the methods used by journalists to inform and empower citizens with verified information about their society and government.
Section One: The motto of the Chapter shall be that of the Society’s: They Serve Best Who Serve the Truth.
Section Two: The Chapter’s watchwords shall be that of the Society’s: Talent, Truth, Energy.
Section One: The badge of the Chapter shall be the same as that prescribed for the Society.
Section One: All members of the Society of Professional Journalists in good standing with the national Society shall be eligible for membership in the Arkansas Pro Chapter.
Section Two: Members must pay current chapter and national dues in order to be eligible to hold membership, to vote, to hold office or to serve as a delegate to the national convention.
Section One: The chapter shall have as officers a President, a Vice President, a Secretary and a Treasurer. These officers shall be elected annually and shall take office immediately.
Section Two: The President shall serve as the chief executive officer and chair of the board of directors, appoint members to chair all standing committees and establish other committees as necessary with the advice and consent of the board.
Section Three: The Vice President shall fulfill the President’s duties in case of the President’s temporary absence or incapacity, in addition to any other duties imposed by the bylaws or by decision of the board. In the event of the death, resignation or removal of the President, the Vice President shall assume the.presidency, and a new Vice President shall be elected by the board of directors.
Section Four: The Secretary shall keep accurate minutes of all chapter and Board of Directors meetings, convey information to members about the chapter and its activities in a regular and timely manner, be formal custodian of all chapter records, and maintain, in conjunction with the Treasurer, membership records in good order.
In addition, the Secretary shall make regular reports to the Society’s magazine, Quill, or the appropriate national staff member about chapter activities, in addition to any other duties assigned by the chapter President.
Section Five: The Treasurer shall be responsible for all chapter funds, collecting receipts and making disbursements at the direction of the Board. In conjunction with the chapter Secretary, the Treasurer shall serve dues notices and collect dues and other assessments.
Section Six: The Board of Directors may at any time consolidate, separate or redefine the offices of Secretary and Treasurer. If the offices are consolidated, the board shall have one more appointive director.
Section Seven: The Chapter shall have a standing Freedom of Information Committee that shall carry out the Chapter’s mission of promoting freedom of speech and press and the free flow of information. The President is also authorized to appoint and assign duties to special committees which the President deems necessary to study, investigate or otherwise function in fields that concern the Society, journalists or journalism.
Section Eight: The Chapter shall submit an annual report to national headquarters in which it reviews its year’s activities and accomplishments. The report shall be submitted under the Society’s rules and prior to the National Convention and shall be made available to any Chapter member upon request.
Section Nine: The financial records of the Chapter and minutes of all meetings shall be open for inspection to members in good standing. Requests for
inspection shall be made to the custodian of such records and shall be made available, if practical, at the next Chapter or Board meeting.
Section One: The Board of Directors shall be composed of the President, the Vice President, the Secretary, the Treasurer and seven directors elected annually by the Chapter members. The immediate past president may serve as either a non-voting member or may run for another voting position on the board after his or her term expires.
Section Two: Any vacancy in the Board of Directors shall be filled by vote of the remaining members of the Board. The member so elected shall serve until the next annual election.
Section Three: The Board shall meet regularly throughout the year to transact business for the Chapter. The Board can take binding action by email or conference call if circumstances, in the Board’s opinion, require it.
Section Four: The Board of Directors shall be responsible for these basic functions: (1) Membership and attendance; (2) Chapter meetings and events; (3) Professional programs; (4) Planning; (5) Convention representatives; and (6) Cooperation with national Headquarters and other SPJ chapters.
Section One: Officers and directors shall be elected by majority vote of the qualified members in attendance at a Chapter meeting before July 1. They shall take office July 1 and serve one-year terms or until their successors are elected and installed.
Section Two: A nominating committee, consisting of the President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer shall nominate candidates for the Board of Directors at least 10 days before an election, in writing or via email to the membership.
Section Three: Candidates shall be nominated on the floor of a Chapter meeting, with the nominating committee’s nominations for officers announced first. The floor shall then be opened for other nominations for officers, followed by election of officers.
Section Four: If an officer election is contested, or if there are more nominees for director than available board seats, that election shall be held by
secret ballot. The election shall be supervised by the Secretary or, if the Secretary Is a candidate for a contested office, by a non-candidate appointed by the presiding officer.
Uncontested elections shall be by voice vote.
Section One: National membership fees shall be that amount determined by the national organization. A person who has not paid their national dues cannot be considered a member of the Chapter.
Section Two: Chapter dues shalI be determined by the membership upon recommendation of the Board of Directors and payable by June 30 of each year. The board has the authority, by a majority vote, to waive or reduce chapter dues for any member. ·
Section One: These Bylaws may be amended and become effective immediately, unless otherwise specified, in the following manner:
● By a majority of votes cast in a Chapter meeting, provided that the proposal to amend the bylaws and the exact wording of the proposed amendment shall be made available to all chapter members not less than 15 days prior to the vote.
● Or by a majority vote cast in a Chapter meeting, provided that the proposed amendment was recommended by the President and approved by a majority of the Board and a copy of which shall have been made available to all chapter members not less than 7 days prior to the vote.
Section Two: The Board of Directors shall have the authority to make minor edits or technical corrections to the Bylaws at any time. Members shall be notified of any edits or changes to the Bylaws approved by the Board within 15 days of the change.
Section Three: “Robert’s Rules of Order” shall be the parliamentary authority for all matters of procedure not specifically covered by these Bylaws. ·
Section One: The Board shall hold monthly meetings.
Section Two: The Board shall endeavor to hold monthly Chapter meetings and events, except when the Board determines that the likelihood of low attendance or other circumstances would make a meeting non-beneficial to the Chapter.
Section Three: The Board shall call Chapter meetings with written notice to members, such as by newsletter, email or website, at least five days before such a meeting. Action taken at any Chapter meeting called with less notice shall be of no force and effect.
Section Four: All persons Invited to speak at chapter meetings and events shall be informed in advance that their remarks to those assembled shall be considered public and on the record. Should a speaker ask to speak off the record, the presiding officer shall again serve notice that all remarks are on the record.
Section Five: This being an association of journalists, no Chapter or Board meeting may be closed to the public except for reasons of safety or for discussions of legal matters on advice of counsel.
Section Six: The Board may impose a reasonable fee for any event or meeting, including meal, drink and service charges. Members attending such events or meetings shall be obligated to pay the fee unless payment is waived by the Board of Directors.

2020 Board of Directors to be elected at Membership Meeting Friday, July 17

2020 Board of Directors to be elected at  Membership Meeting Friday, July 17

The Society of Professional Journalists – Arkansas Pro annual Membership Meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, July 17. During the meeting, we will elect the 2020 board of directors. We will also hear from local reporters about their experiences covering the protests against racial injustice in Little Rock. Our keynote speakers will be Alexis Wainright of KARK and Fox 16 and Paige Cushman and Shelby Rose of KATV.

Board candidates for the 2020-2021 term include Sarah DeClerk of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (president); Steven Listopad of Henderson State University (vice president); Rob Moritz of the University of Central Arkansas (treasurer); Lauren McCabe, who recently graduated from UCA (secretary); Jennifer Ellis of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; Sonny Albarado, who recently retired from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; Sarah Campbell-Miller of Arkansas Business; Andrew DeMillo of The Associated Press; Wendy Miller of The Trucker; Brittany Reese of KATV Channel 7; and Ronak Patel, a student journalist at UCA.

Attendees may register in advance for this webinar at

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar. Email chapter president Sarah DeClerk at with any questions about the event.

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.