School of Journalism to Run Arkansascovid.com
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansascovid.com, a leading news source for daily COVID-19 data and trends in Arkansas, will transfer its daily management and operations to the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at the University of Arkansas.
Misty Orpin, a journalist, small business owner and mother of two, started Arkansascovid.com in March as a personal project to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting the state and her community. Launched from her laptop, the multimedia site has gained statewide acclaim for its data visualizations, frequent Twitter updates and Orpin's analysis. The Twitter feed @arkansascovid now has more than 11,000 followers, including many state government leaders.
In May, Orpin began a partnership with Rob Wells, a U of A assistant professor of journalism who teaches data journalism, which included an intern to assist Orpin in the daily production of demographic data. The internship was sponsored by Arkansas Soul, a site devoted to recruiting and training African American students about journalism, and the Northwest Arkansas Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
As the Arkansascovid.com workload grew, Orpin asked if the School of Journalism could operate the site full time. The school, part of the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, will devote a mix of graduate students and students in Wells' data journalism class to operate Arkansascovid.com, providing students an extraordinary opportunity to work with a real-time data journalism website. Orpin will continue to provide analysis and commentary as needed. The transition is due to be finalized Sept. 14.
"I've been so gratified at the way the community has embraced this platform and created a welcoming space to share information about COVID in our state," Orpin said. "Its growth in the past few months wouldn't have been possible without help from the partnership with the UA. I'm thrilled to be handing it off to the UA team, in whom I have utmost confidence to shepherd it to even greater usefulness for everyday Arkansans."
Larry Foley, chair of the School of Journalism and Strategic Media, said running the website is yet another example of the high quality professional opportunities available to the students.
"This is a real opportunity for our school to work on a project that delivers critical information," Foley said. "Misty Orpin has done a great job with her work and we are honored to move it forward. Dr. Rob Wells is the right person to lead his student team, at this most important time when all of us need data to help negotiate the rough waters of this dangerous, contagious virus."
Wells said he is grateful that Orpin would provide such an opportunity to his students.
"There are not many journalism programs in the country that offer students an opportunity to operate and publish real-time news and data on a topic that affects every person in the state. We have a big responsibility to keep up the high standards Misty Orpin has set to this point. I can't wait to see what my students will produce this semester," Wells said.
About Arkansascovid.com: The Arkansas Covid provides county-level COVID-19 data to help Arkansans make informed decisions for themselves and their families. The site fact-checks data being presented by state, media and other sources to ensure it's both accurate and presenting a complete picture through easy-to-digest visualizations and clear, concise facts. The site does not comment on political stances related to COVID-19, but does advocate for increased testing. Every data point used is completely reliant on a positive or negative COVID test. Without reliable testing, there is no reliable data.
About the School of Journalism and Strategic Media: The School of Journalism and Strategic Media is dedicated to excellence in teaching, research and media discourse. Students in our journalism degree programs receive instruction, guidance and access to hands-on experience from our seasoned, award-winning faculty and staff. Areas of study include news editorial and reporting, broadcast, public relations, advertising and digital media. @uarkjournalism
Rob Wells, assistant professor
School of Journalism and
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