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
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.
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 year. During 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 graduation, Zimmardi 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.
Mary Hennigan is an intern at 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 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.
The U of A Journalism Department is engaged in community outreach through several programs, such as the Lemke Journalism Project, which recruits primarily Hispanic high school students for journalism training; Arkansas Soul, a statewide outreach project for African-American high school students and other students of color; Razorback Reporter, a website that publishes student investigative journalism and data visualizations.