Aug 16, 2022 - Politics

Watchdog site Arkansas Advocate set to cover Capitol

Arkansas Advocate's editorial staff: Antoinette Grajeda, Sonny Albarado, Hunter Field and Tess Vrbin. Photo: Dwain Hebda/Arkansas Advocate

Arkansas Advocate, a news website covering the state Capitol, launches Tuesday.

  • The site is free to read. An email newsletter with links to its stories will be sent to subscribers every weekday morning.

Why it matters: Reporting on the inner workings of state government acts to hold lawmakers accountable and helps citizens make informed decisions about who to elect.

  • Yes, and: More than 360 newspapers closed between late 2019 and May 2022, Axios' Sara Fischer reports, creating news deserts at the local level and exacerbating the economic divide in the U.S.

Context: Arkansas Advocate is part of the States Newsroom network, a nonprofit organization with newsrooms in 29 states, including Missouri, Tennessee, Louisiana and Kansas.

  • It has grown from 15 sites at the beginning of 2020 and plans to launch outlets in South Dakota and Kentucky by the end of the year.
  • The organization is funded through private donations, doesn't publish advertising and doesn't accept corporate underwriting.

Details: Former Arkansas Democrat-Gazette special projects editor Sonny Albarado is the editor-in-chief of the new site.

  • The outlet will launch with about a dozen stories, Albarado told Axios. Most of its three to four daily news articles will be written by its four staffers.
  • However, some content that's of interest to Arkansans will come from the States Newsroom coverage out of Washington, D.C.

Hunter Field, Antoinette Grajeda and Tess Vrbin round out the editorial staff.

  • Grajeda, former reporter for KUAF-FM and ex-editor of Arkansas Soul, will be based in NWA.
  • Field and Vrbin had previous stints at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

What they're saying: "My goal is to make sure that we show citizens — taxpayers — how what happens in the legislature affects their daily lives and their pocketbooks," Albarado told us.

History lesson: The Arkansas Advocate was the "second successful newspaper in Arkansas." It started in 1830 in direct opposition to the Arkansas Gazette. Eventually named the Arkansas Times and Advocate, it closed in 1844.


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