New Arkansas outlet launches with state Capitol coverage

Arkansas Advocate is the latest in a network of state-based nonprofit news websites
The staff of the newly launched Arkansas Advocate pose for a photograph outside the Arkansas state Capitol. From left: Antoinette Grajeda, Sonny Albarado, Hunter Field, and Tess Vrbin. (@ArkAdvoate/Twitter)

The latest website in a network of state-based nonprofit news outlets launched this week with coverage of the Arkansas state Capitol.

Arkansas Advocate is set to include daily reporting from four staffers led by former Arkansas Democrat-Gazette special projects editor Sonny Albarado. Other newsroom members include Hunter Field, Antoinette Grajeda and Tess Vrbin.

Field is a veteran Arkansas journalist who recently left the Democrat-Gazette to become deputy editor of the Advocate. He was a projects editor who led the newspaper’s investigative team which focused on Arkansas government and politics.

Grajeda is a senior reporter who local residents will recognize from her 12-year career as a public radio journalist for local NPR affiliate KUAF 91.3FM. Grajeda is the former editor of Arkansas Soul.

Vrbin will report for the Advocate after recently leaving the Democrat-Gazette, where she reported on low-income housing and tenants’ rights, and won awards for her coverage of 2021 flooding and tornado damage in rural Arkansas.

The Advocate is the 29th outlet from States Newsroom, which aims to expand to about 40 states with content sharing agreements in the remaining states. The nonprofit network, which launched in 2017, offers statehouse news coverage and investigative reporting with no paywalls and no advertisements, thanks to individual contributions and institutional grants.

“We are thrilled to welcome this team of award-winning veteran journalists and launch the Arkansas Advocate,” said Chris Fitzsimon, director and publisher of States Newsroom. “For the last two decades, local news has suffered as newsrooms have downsized and reporters are stretched thin across beats. This new newsroom will help bolster coverage of the important stories coming out of Little Rock and how they affect people in every corner of Arkansas.”

Arkansas Advocate

Arkansas Advocate is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants, donors and readers. It launched on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022.

Twitter: @ArkAdvocate
Facebook: @ArkansasAdvocate

After retiring in 2020, Albarado worked as a recruiter for the University of Southern California Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s fellowship programs, while also mentoring journalists in the center’s annual National Health Fellowship.

Albarado said the joys of retirement lost out to the opportunity to help create a news outlet “that takes seriously its role as a responsible, ethical interlocutor of the events and issues that concern Arkansans, especially those from marginalized or overlooked communities.”

Albarado said Arkansas needs an aggressive staff of professional journalists focused on the happenings in the halls of power and the courts.

“We aim to give Arkansans a fresh perspective on the legislators, laws and leaders whose decisions affect residents’ daily lives,” he said.