About

Arkansas Covid is managed by The University of Arkansas School of Journalism and Strategic Media. What began as a personal project for Misty Oprin, a journalist, small business owner, and mother of two, grew to a website and interactive Twitter page. As interest grew for daily updates, Misty partnered with Dr. Rob Wells, assistant professor in the journalism department. A growing workload led to a shift of management for the site. The School of Journalism and Strategic Media now allows students to gain experience reporting real-time data and news through the site. The school devotes a mix of graduate and undergraduate students to daily management of Arkansas Covid and Misty continues to provide analysis as needed.

The core goals for Arkansas Covid are:

  • Provide reliable, county-level Covid-19 data to help Arkansans make informed decisions for themselves and their families
  • Fact-check data being presented by state and other sources to ensure accuracy
  • Respond to reader questions seeking data-related information
  • Make information easy to access and easy to digest through clear visualizations
  • Uphold editorial standards of The Associated Press

Fall 2020 Data Journalism Class

Dr. Rob Wells

Rob Wells, Ph.D., is editor of Arkansascovid.com and Assistant Professor in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Arkansas, where he teaches data journalism and is the school’s Graduate Coordinator. Wells has been teaching at the UofA since 2016 and taught at the University of Maryland and the University of South Carolina. He is the author of The Enforcers: How Little-Known Trade Reporters Exposed the Keating Five and Advanced Business Journalism (University of Illinois Press, 2019) and is working on a new book about the history of the Kiplinger Washington Letter and its pathbreaking coverage in the New Deal. Wells is married to Deborah C. St. Coeur and they like to ride around town on a tandem bicycle, play music, enjoy their jazz and blues records and spoil their dog, Timber.

Katy Seiter

Katy Seiter is Assistant Editor for Arkansascovid.com and a graduate assistant in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Arkansas, pursing a MA in journalism. Seiter has done considerable coding on the Arkansascovid.com site. While pursuing her undergraduate degree in advertising and public relations, Seiter held several intern positions with various nonprofits. During the spring of 2020, she worked on a nationwide homeless project led by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, where she developed a passion for data and investigative journalism. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, listening to music and spending time with family and friends.

Mary Hennigan

Mary Hennigan is Assistant Editor for Arkansascovid.com and a senior in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Arkansas. Originally from Wisconsin and then Missouri, Hennigan has found a love for all things adventure and journalism. During the summer of 2020, she worked on a nationwide evictions project with the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism where she covered Milwaukee’s evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hennigan plans to attend graduate school at the University of Arkansas following her May 2021 graduation. When she’s not reading numbers or reporting all day, she is probably climbing a mountain, listening to music or swimming at the base of a waterfall.   

Kendal Heavner

Kendal Heavner is a University of Arkansas graduate student studying journalism. While pursuing her undergraduate degree in advertising and public relations, she worked as intern with 7hills Homeless Center to increase volunteer outreach and training. She also served as a board member for the University of Arkansas Volunteer Action Center where she managed a budget of $22,000 as well as coordinated monthly sessions for students and 32 nonprofits in the area. Here, she received the Presidential Service Award for the 2019-2020 school year. She currently works as a graduate assistant for the advertising and public relations department of the School of Journalism and Strategic Media. Kendal enjoys listening to podcasts, biking, and reading.  

Obed Lamy

Obed Lamy is a Fulbright Scholar and a graduate journalism student at the University of Arkansas. With nearly five years of experience in journalism, his work has been published in different news outlets in my home country, Haiti, as well as international media in Canada and the United States. He also co-founded a multimedia platform named Enfo Sitwayen dedicated to civic education and practical information on the public process. As a first-time filmmaker, he created a short documentary, A Promising Voice, which was selected into three film festivals.

Abby Zimmardi

Abby Zimmardi is a senior undergraduate student at the University of Arkansas pursuing a degree in journalism with a minor in anthropology. After being a news reporter for the Arkansas Traveler since 2018, Zimmardi is serving as the multimedia editor for the 2020-2021 school yearDuring the summer of 2020, she worked with the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism on a nationwide project where she covered evictions in Milwaukee during the COVID-19 pandemic. Following her May 2021 graduationZimmardi plans to earn a master’s degree in journalism through the University of Arkansas Graduate School. When she is not reporting, you can find Zimmardi at the nearest coffee shop, doing karaoke or hammocking by Old Main. 

Contributors

Shane White

Shane White is a graduate student at the University of Arkansas pursuing his master’s degree in journalism with a concentration in documentary filmmaking. An award-winning director and cinematographer, Shane recently won a College Student Emmy Award for his 2019 documentary Homeless in Boomtown. Shane is the Video Production Graduate Assistant for UA Productions at the University of Arkansas and also serves as Director of Photography for the University’s Agriculture Department’s Experimental Learning Lab. Shane is currently in production on his thesis documentary film, which deals with changing concepts of body image within the fashion industry.

Gerald Jordan

Gerald Jordan, associate professor in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media, edits stories for Arkansascovid.com.

Jordan is a veteran journalist and educator who has been teaching at the U of A since 1995. He is a former Washington correspondent for the The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he also served as assigning editor. He has also worked for The Kansas City Star, and The Boston Globe. Among his other assignments have been features and sports, editorial writing and TV and radio critic. Jordan holds a B.A. in journalism, University of Arkansas, 1970; MSJ, Northwestern University, 1971. Nieman Fellow, Harvard, 1982.

Austin Wilkins

Austin Wilkins is a Data Services Specialist at the Mullins Library at the University of Arkansas. Wilkins holds a Master of Arts degree in Political Science and is pursuing an M.A. in Statistics/Analytics with a focus on quantitative methods in social data analysis. He provides early programming support scale up Arkansascovid.com. He is currently working with the University of Arkansas Libraries to develop modern data services, assist researchers in text data mining, and perform internal collection analysis. Wells and Wilkins have collaborated on data analysis projects, including a major machine-driven analysis of news coverage of Chinese companies investing in the U.S. Wilkins is the bassist with the jazz-soul group Honey Collective and has performed widely throughout the South and Midwest.

Rachell Sanchez-Smith

Rachell Sanchez-Smith is freshman undergraduate student at the University of Arkansas and a translator for Arkansascovid.com. She is pursuing a double major in journalism and political science with a minor in legal studies. She served as an editor of the Mountie Spectrum for Rogers High School for nearly three years and worked to advance efforts of political involvement at her school. She is currently working with Facing South, a nonprofit online magazine, to report over working conditions for poultry workers in Northwest Arkansas. Following her 2024 graduation, Sanchez-Smith plans to attend law school and continue reporting when possible. When she is not studying or working, you can find her visiting with family and friends, going to coffee shops, or practicing foreign languages.

Alexus Underwood

Alexus Underwood is a senior journalism student at the University of Arkansas, she is studying for a news/editorial focused degree.

Supporters

This group is a chapter of the national journalism organization that promotes the free flow of information to citizens. The Northwest Arkansas chapter provides ongoing professional training for journalists, legal advocacy related to the 1st Amendment and financial support for students pursuing journalism education in the region.

Established in 1987, The Walton Family Foundation works to improve K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans, and investing in the communities of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. By focusing on environmental and educational issues, the Walton Family Foundation creates long-term solutions to benefit future generations.

The Arkansas Community Foundation is a nonprofit organization that offers tools to help Arkansans protect, grow, and direct charitable dollars while learning about community needs. By working locally with a network of 29 affiliate offices, the Arkansas Community Foundation helps to fund development, community leadership, and service within the counties they serve.

Founded in 2019 in conjunction with the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Arkansas, Arkansas Soul provides high school and college students with real-world media experience. By generating content for diverse audiences, students gain experience in podcasting, opinion, and editorial story writing.

The University of Arkansas School of Journalism and Strategic Media (SJSM) ranks among the top fully accredited journalism schools in the country. With nearly 700 enrolled students, SJSM provides students opportunities to study broadcast and multimedia journalism as well as advertising and public relations. The school is host of Arkansascovid.com.

The Arkansas Nonprofit News Network works as an independent, nonpartisan news effort. Dedicated to producing journalism that matters to Arkansans, ANNN stories appear in publications across Arkansas and seek to fill the gap of sustained reporting on complicated issues in our state.

La Prensa Libre works as a news publisher in Northwest Arkansas. Publishing stories in both Spanish and English, the newspaper reaches an important group within our state. La Prensa Libre focuses both on Hispanic culture as well as local news and events.

DONATE TO ARKANSAS COVID

Donations will be used to offset travel expenses, hosting costs, and supplement intern stipend.