Elementary student who started school newspaper to receive Arkansas SPJ’s first Diamond in the Rough Award

By Maggie McNeary

Arkansas SPJ will present the first President’s Diamond in the Rough Award to a Greenbrier Eastside Elementary student who started his own school newspaper at the chapter’s Diamond Journalism Awards, set for 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25.

Israel Bollinger, who was a fourth grader when he helped create What’s Up Eastside, works with a staff of second through fifth graders to make the monthly publication, Eastside Elementary Principal Mandi Dunlap said.

The 10-year-old, now a fifth grader, said he got the idea to start the paper while reading The Awesome, Almost 100% True Adventures of Matt & Craz by Alan Silberberg. The characters in Silberberg’s book had a school paper, which made Bollinger realize that his school lacked one – a problem that he soon solved.

“I couldn’t help but be impressed by this kid’s gumption,” Arkansas SPJ President Jennifer Ellis said of Bollinger’s accomplishment.

Israel Bollinger, 10, holds a copy of the newspaper, “What’s Up Eastside,” he started at Greenbrier Eastside Elementary in January. Arkansas SPJ will present Bollinger with the first President’s Diamond in the Rough Award at the chapter’s Diamond Journalism Awards, set for 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25 at the Flying Saucer in Little Rock. Photo courtesy of Jason Bollinger

After a conversation with Principal Dunlap, and the recruitment of about 16 elementary students, the publication started production in January.

“Israel had asked me about it back in the first semester and I began to think about how to make this happen,” Dunlap said.

Sherry Hogg, the school counselor, helps the students during their 30-minute daily production time. The students compose their stories in Google Docs, the principal said, and printed copies are distributed throughout the school.

“This has been a great creative outlet for a lot of students,” she said. “They not only learn literacy skills of writing articles, but also the power of networking with a group to produce a product! The kids absolutely love this!”

Students voted to name the paper What’s Up Eastside and decided on its topics together. Bollinger’s favorite part of the paper is the “Crackups” section, which features jokes from students.

Eastside students
The staff at Greenbrier Eastside Elementary’s school paper, “What’s Up Eastside,” are hard at work. The paper was started by Israel Bollinger, third from left, in January when he was a fourth grader. He will receive the President’s Diamond in the Rough Award from Arkansas SPJ Thursday. Photo courtesy of Mandi Dunlap

Bollinger plans to continue working on the publication for the rest of the school year.

“I really like working on the paper,” he said. “It’s fun.”

In the future, he said he might even start a middle school newspaper if next year’s campus doesn’t have one. And he’s looking even further than that.

“I think that when I grow up I want to be an entrepreneur and maybe own a newspaper,” he said.

Bollinger said he had been surprised by the media attention to him and the paper, and that he was excited to receive the Diamond in the Rough award.

“It’s going to be quite an honor,” he said.

Bollinger’s parents, Kerrie and Jason, have also been surprised by all the interest. Jason Bollinger said that his son has many good ideas and that, just as importantly, he sees them through.

“He sees a problem and he works to fix it,” he said.

Join Israel Bollinger and this year’s Diamond Journalism Award winners from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25 in the private party room downstairs at the Flying Saucer in Little Rock, located at 323 President Clinton Ave. Tickets are $15 and include heavy hors d’oeuvres and libations.

For more information on the event and Arkansas SPJ, visit the chapter’s website and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Arkansas SPJ scholarship honoree dies

The Arkansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is saddened to note the death of Jerol Herreid Garrison, 86, of Fayetteville.

He was a longtime journalist and public relations practitioner in Central Arkansas. He occasionally taught journalism at UA Little Rock.

He also was active for many years as a member of the Arkansas Pro Chapter of SPJ. His SPJ contributions were invaluable, serving the chapter in a variety of roles including his participation for many years in the fabled Farkleberry Follies spoof of Arkansas newspapers and journalists. One of the chapter’s scholarships is named in his honor.

Garrison earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and after a two-year military hitch, earned a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. He went on to work for the Neosho Daily News in Missouri and the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock before taking a job with Arkansas Power and Light Co., where he became director of communication.

Survivors include his wife of 64 years, Sally, as well as two daughters, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Funeral will be at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14, at Central United Methodist Church in Fayetteville with burial in Fairview Memorial Gardens.

Arkansas SPJ wins Circle of Excellence Award for professional development

The Arkansas Pro Chapter has been named a Circle of Excellence Award winner for a small chapter with fewer than 75 members in the area of professional development, the Society of Professional Journalists announced Aug. 23.

Circle of Excellence Awards recognize chapters that perform outstanding work in the areas of campus relations, professional development, diversity and First Amendment/Freedom of Information Act. The winners in these categories are finalists for Chapter of the Year.

SPJ’s 12 regional directors selected Arkansas Pro for this award based on recommendations by the Directors-at-Large.

This is what they said about why Arkansas Pro was chosen: “The sessions in this year’s Life and Death regional conference on FOI, ethics, Google, diversity and covering executions sounded excellent. There also were programs during the year on ethical decision-making, spotting fake news, learning about Islam and building an audience.”

The award will be presented at the opening business session at the Excellence in Journalism 218 conference in Baltimore on Sept. 27.

To find the winners in other categories visit here.

Arkansas SPJ sells T-shirts to benefit Capital Gazette Families Fund

4imprint-front copy

Arkansas SPJ is selling T-shirts with proceeds to be donated to the Capital Gazette Families Fund, which was set up by the newspaper’s owner to provide immediate relief and long-term recovery support to employees and their immediate family members affected by the tragedy.

Get yours for $20 at the Reporting in the Midst of Tragedy event at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9 in Sturgis Hall at the Clinton School of Public Service.

Want to pay by PayPal before the event? Here’s the link.


Email Jennifer Ellis with the size at jellis@arkansasonline.com (Small through 4X available).


Reporting in the Midst of Tragedy


After the shooting deaths of five staff members at the Capital Gazette just over a month ago, reporter Chase Cook said “I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper.”
Join the Arkansas Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9 for a panel discussion about covering the news during even the toughest of times with moderator Andrew DeMillo of The Associated Press.

Christina Muñoz, former anchor for KATV Channel 7
CORRECTION: Christina had just had her first baby in 2008 when her colleagues had to go on air with the news that their friend/co-worker Anne Pressly was murdered.
George Jared, author and investigative journalist
George has written two true-crime books and more news stories about WM3 than any other journalist.
Cathy Frye, former award-winning journalist
In 2013, Cathy became the subject of the kind of tragic stories she was known for writing after she and her husband, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette photographer Rick McFarland, spent days lost in the Chihuahuan Desert.

*This event is free and open to the public

Arkansas SPJ will be selling T-shirts with proceeds to benefit the Capital Gazette Families Fund, which was set up by the newspaper’s owner to provide immediate relief and long-term recovery support to employees and their immediate family members affected by the tragedy.

Send questions and comments for discussion to @ArkansasSPJ #ReportingTragedy






5 p.m.
Wednesday, July 25
Rock Town Distillery
1201 Main St. | Little Rock

For $20 join Arkansas SPJ on a private tour, which includes
a Solo-cup cocktail, the tasting of 10 items + 3 specialty items
(single barrel whiskeys, anniversary whiskeys and more).

Get there at 5 p.m. to get a drink before the tour and tasting begins at 5:15.
The tour and tasting takes about an hour.

Then we’ll meet in the bar for a mixer with Ashley Wimberley,
executive director of the Arkansas Press Association.