Democrat-Gazette staff win top honors at Great Plains Journalism Awards; former editor named to the Hall of Fame

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette staffers took top honors Friday in six categories of the Great Plains Journalism Awards.

Additionally, Lawrence “Sonny” Albarado, retired special projects editor of the Democrat-Gazette, became a new member of the Great Plains Journalism Hall of Fame as a member of the second class of inductees. Other inductees were Jeannette Cooperman with St. Louis Magazine, David Fritze of Oklahoma Watch, Jim Goodwin with The Oklahoma Eagle, Wayne Greene of Public Service Company of Oklahoma and formerly with Tulsa World, and Sam Jones with RSU-TV.

The regional journalism competition draws entries from eight states — Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota — and is sponsored by the Tulsa Press Club.

A total of 14 staff members were named finalists. The winners and runners-up were announced during a luncheon at the Tulsa Press Club.

The Democrat-Gazette website, arkansasonline.com, won the Great Plains Website of the Year award.

Members of the website team also won honors for best website design, project for the journal’s vaccine information page, arkansasonline.com/vaccineinfo/. Members of the project team include online editor Maggie McNeary, audience engagement editor Nyssa Kruse, producers Brian Smith and David Wilson, and former associate editor Barry Arthur, who is now Director of Audience Technology at parent company WEHCO Media.

Other top prizes went to Stan Denman for page design and senior photo editor Staton Breidenthal, who took top honors for Spot News Photography.

In the editorial team, editorial page editor David Barham won the Editorial Portfolio award and columnist John Brummett won the News Column Portfolio award.

Albarado was inducted into the Hall of Fame with the following introduction:

“Lawrence ‘Sonny’ Albarado retired from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in late January 2020 after 12½ years as the paper’s senior editor, overseeing a team of four reporters.

“Since retirement, he has worked as a contract consultant and editor for MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a Memphis-based online media outlet that “focuses on the intersection of poverty, power, and politics.”

“He also worked for six months as a contract editor and consultant for the Democrat-Gazette on a series about the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on public education in Arkansas. He is also a consultant to the USC Center for Healthcare Journalism for its various fellowship programs and served in 2020 and 2021 as a Senior Fellow in the Center’s National Health Reporting Fellowship, mentoring fellows as they produce impactful journalism on health in their communities.

“Sonny is secretary of the SPJ Foundation, the charitable fundraiser for the Society of Professional Journalists. He served as SPJ National President in 2012-2013 and is currently a member of the SPJ Arkansas Chapter Board of Directors.

“He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and an Honorary Doctor of Letters from Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana.”

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