Press Release | States Newsroom
States Newsroom, the nation’s leading network of state-based nonprofit news outlets, has launched the Arkansas Advocate to provide free, high-quality, non-partisan reporting on the crucial issues affecting the Natural State. The Arkansas Advocate is States Newsroom’s 29th outlet in its network.
Sonny Albarado is editor-in-chief of the new newsroom. In his nearly 50-year career, Albarado has been an investigations editor, a business editor, a city editor, an environmental reporter and a government reporter at newspapers in Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana. Most recently, he retired from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette after serving as projects editor for 12 ½ years. He got his start in journalism as editor of the Nicholls Worth, the student newspaper at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 1973. Nicholls awarded him an honorary Doctor of Letters in 2014.
Additional members of the Arkansas Advocate’s newsroom include:
- Hunter Field, Deputy Editor: Field is a veteran Arkansas journalist whose reporting on the state has carried him from military air strips in northwest Arkansas to soybean fields in the Arkansas delta. He spent the better part of the last decade investigating and reporting on Arkansas government and politics. For three years, he covered education policy, medical marijuana and the Arkansas General Assembly as part of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Capitol Bureau. Most recently, he was the Democrat-Gazette’s projects editor, leading the newspaper’s investigative team. Hunter got his start in journalism covering sports for The Commercial Appeal in Memphis. A Memphis native, he enjoys smoking barbecue, kayaking and fishing in his free time.
- Antoinette Grajeda, Senior Reporter: Grajeda is a multimedia journalist who has reported since 2007 on a wide range of topics, including politics, health, education, immigration and the arts for NPR affiliates, print publications and digital platforms. A University of Arkansas alumna, she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism and a master’s degree in documentary film.
- Tess Vrbin, Reporter: Vrbin came to the Advocate from the Arkansas 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. She previously covered local government for The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi and state government for the Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri. A Midwesterner by birth, she graduated from the University of Missouri’s journalism school in 2019.
“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.”
The launch of the Arkansas Advocate comes shortly after Pew Research Center cited States Newsroom and other nonprofit newsrooms as key to filling the void in statehouse coverage left by staffing cuts at legacy media outlets. According to Pew, the overall percentage of reporters working for nonprofit newsrooms in the statehouse press corps has more than tripled since 2014 and now makes up the largest portion of statehouse reporters in 10 states and the second largest in 17 states.
Last year, States Newsroom announced major plans to expand its footprint to have independent newsrooms in roughly 40 states and launched News from the States, a comprehensive source for statehouse news across the country. States Newsroom is set to continue its rapid expansion this year to Kentucky and South Dakota. Recently, the organization expanded its reach by launching new content sharing partnerships with eight independent nonprofit outlets, including the Texas Tribune, to host their reporting on News from the States.
States Newsroom is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that is funded by the generous contributions of readers and philanthropists. States Newsroom is committed to supporting fact-based, non-partisan news to the public at no cost and ad-free.
Other States Newsroom affiliates and partners are:
In addition to its network of 29 state-based outlets, States Newsroom has content sharing agreements with eight leading nonprofit newsrooms: CommonWealth (Massachusetts), Connecticut Mirror, Honolulu Civil Beat (Hawaii), Mountain State Spotlight (West Virginia), Mississippi Today, Texas Tribune, VTDigger (Vermont), and WyoFile (Wyoming).