2014 Region Conference Speakers

Sonny Albarado

sonny-albaradoSonny Albarado is projects editor at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, a statewide, family-owned daily newspaper based in Little Rock. As projects editor, he supervises a staff of two reporters and assists other editors and reporters in long-term investigative and explanatory journalism.

He has worked as a journalist since 1970, when he became editor of his college newspaper. His first professional newspaper job began in December 1972 in Houma, La. Except for an 18-month period when he helped a couple of friends start a monthly trade magazine in New Orleans, he has worked in newspapers all of his professional life.

Albarado is the immediate past president of SPJ and has been a member since March 1979. Albarado became SPJ Region 12 director at the 2006 convention. As regional director, he also became co-director with Region 3’s director of the annual Green Eyeshade Awards program, which recognizes excellence among journalists in 11 southeastern states.

Brenda Blagg

brenda-blaggBrenda Blagg has more than 40 years of experience covering Arkansas politics. She has worked full time for the Newport Daily Independent, Arkansas Democrat and Morning News of Northwest Arkansas and freelanced for numerous publications, including the Arkansas Gazette, The National Observer and The New York Times.

Her 2012 book, “Political Magic: The Trials, Travels and Triumphs of the Clintons,” chronicles the hundreds of volunteers who traveled the U.S. campaigning first for former President Bill Clinton and later for Hillary Clinton in her quest for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008.

Blagg is currently a columnist for Northwest Arkansas Newspapers, publisher of the Northwest Arkansas Times, Springdale Morning News, Rogers Morning News and Benton County Daily Record newspapers.

A longtime advocate for open government, Blagg was a founding member of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Coalition. She was assistant coordinator for the FOI Arkansas Project, which surveyed compliance with the state’s open records law in each of Arkansas’ 75 counties.

Blagg is the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions. In 2001, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Journalism Department named her the state’s journalist of the year. She is a 2009 inductee into the University of Arkansas’ Walter J. Lemke Department of Journalism Hall of Honor.

Steve Boss

Steve BossDr. Steve Boss is the director of the Environmental Dynamics Program and a professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. He received his PhD in marine sciences from the University of North Carolina. His has both a MS and BS in geology from Utah State University and Bemidji State University, respectively.

Dr. Boss is interested in the application of high-resolution geophysical methods to document and interpret the depositional geometry, stratigraphy, and regional geologic history of lakes, coastal regions, sedimentary basins, continental margins, and carbonate platforms.

Tracy Boucher

Tracy BoucherTracy Boucher is the director of news development at the Los Angeles Times, where she runs the internship and Metpro training programs.

She started her career at The Times as an intern in 1992 and was hired as a copy editor in its Orange County edition in 1993. Boucher worked on the paper’s Metro and Features desks as a split-shift copy desk chief before taking a position as deputy innovation editor in 2007. In that role, she helped transform separate web and print operations into a single newsroom feeding multiple platforms, among other duties.

She previously worked at the Orange County Register, the St. Petersburg Times and theOrlando Sentinel. A graduate of the University of Florida, she is married to journalist and author Geoff Boucher and has two children, both of whom get their daily news from the print paper, iFunny and YouTube.

Peggy Brenner

Peggy has 14 years of experience in scientific writing and editing. She holds a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of California, Davis, and she also taught and conducted research at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Peggy has written her own funded grant applications, as well as abstracts, manuscripts, and slide presentations. As an editor, she is skilled in a broad range of areas, including substantively editing research proposals, manuscripts, brochures, and reports, as well as organizing and preparing figures. Peggy is a board-certified Editor in the Life Sciences and is a member of the American Medical Writers Association.

Chad Day

Chad-DayChad Day is a reporter on the investigative projects desk at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He specializes in computer-assisted reporting and long-form investigations.

He earned a bachelor’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism and has worked for the Kansas City Star.   Day was named the Arkansas Young Journalist of the Year in 2011.  In 2013, he won the Arkansas Press Association’s Freedom of Information Award. He and colleague Cathy Frye also won the I.F. Stone Award for Investigative Reporting and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Robert S. McCord Freedom of Information Award.

Paul Folger

PAUL-FOLGER-jpgPaul Folger anchors KOCO 5 News at 5, 6 and 10 p.m., with his co-anchor Jessica Schambach.  He joined KOCO 5 in 2008 from WTEV, the Jacksonville, FL, CBS affiliate, where he was weekday morning and noon anchor since 2002.

Folger has worked all across the southern US, including four years reporting for KDAF in Dallas, TX as an anchor and producer for WCTI in New Bern, NC, and News Bureau Chief for WHSV in Harrisonburg, Va. In addition to anchoring in studio at 5, 6 and 10 p.m., he also reports and anchors live from all around the region, taking viewers to the scene of big breaking stories.

Folger is a graduate of the University of North Carolina — Asheville.  In his free time he enjoys the outdoors and cycling on local trails with his mountain bike.

Dan Gillgoff

Dan_gilgoff_final-150x150Dan Gilgoff is Director of Digital News at National Geographic, where he leads the daily content operation for NationalGeographic.com. He was previously Religion Editor at CNN.com, where he led a team that won the 2011 Online Journalism Award for beat coverage and served as the inaugural Religion in Public Life fellow at Georgia State University.

His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today and he is the author of “The Jesus Machine: How James Dobson, Focus on the Family and Evangelical America are Winning the Culture War.” He has also worked as the political correspondent for U.S News & World Report as the Politics Editor at Beliefnet, where he won the 2008 Online Journalism Award for commentary; and as an adjunct journalism professor at Montclair State University in New Jersey. He has frequently appeared on CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC and NPR.

Brandon Hollingsworth

Brandon-HollingsworthBrandon Hollingsworth is the local host of All Things Considered on WUOT-FM, Knoxville’s NPR member station. He’s served in that role since December 2010.

In addition to his daily duties of newscasts, weather reports and traffic updates, Hollingsworth is a feature reporter for the station. His long-form work includes interviews with national figures from former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to comedian Steve Martin. Hollingsworth has covered Tennessee’s growing Hispanic population, legislative redistricting and the controversy over hydraulic fracturing on the Cumberland Plateau.

Hollingsworth’s work has appeared on NPR’s national newsmagazine Morning Edition, as well as the network’s extensive Newscast Unit.

Gerald Jordan

gerald-jordanGerald Jordan is an associate professor of print journalism at the University of Arkansas. Professor Jordan joined the department in 1995, from The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he was a Washington correspondent. He became an assigning editor for The Inquirer in 1989 and worked in the suburbs and on the City Desk before he was named North Zone editor, with responsibility for a two-county edition which reached about 110,000 readers.

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.

Roy Reed

8352_Roy_Reed-writerMost of Roy Reed’s working life was spent as a reporter for three newspapers: The Joplin Globe, the Arkansas Gazette, and the New York Times. During his work for the Times, he was based in Atlanta, Washington, New Orleans and London. He covered the civil rights movement, the White House, presidential campaigns, and a broad array of political and cultural changes at home and abroad.

He taught journalism for sixteen years at the University of Arkansas. He retired in 1995 to write books and freelance articles. He has written three books: Looking For Hogeye; Faubus: The Life and Times of an American Prodigal, and Beware of Limbo Dancers: A Correspondent’s Adventures with the New York Times. He edited Looking Back at the Arkansas Gazette: An Oral History. All were published by the University of Arkansas Press.

Jon Schleuss

jschleussJon Schleuss is a reporter and graphic artist at the Los Angeles Times. He focuses on interactive graphics and database reporting.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas in 2013 and has worked for the Seattle Times, Northwest Arkansas Media and KUAF 91.3 FM.

Bret Schulte


Bret Schulte is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Arkansas and a freelance journalist. He teaches feature writing and enterprise reporting, magazine writing, literary journalism, and multimedia journalism. Schulte is the Arkansas stringer for The New York Times and has freelanced for Columbia Journalism Review, American Journalism Review, Nieman Reports, and National Geographic News.

Before academia, Schulte worked as a reporter and associate editor at U.S. News & World Report, covering a number of Washington policy battles and political races, including the 2004 presidential campaign. He interned at The Washington Post and was a Style editor and writer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

He is the winner of three Green Eyeshade Awards, which recognizes the best in Southern journalism, and was a 2012 finalist for a national Mirror Award.

Amanda Womac

Womac-Social-Media-PicAmanda Womac is a freelance science writer and nonprofit marketing consultant based in Knoxville, Tennessee.

She has been a member of SPJ since 2008 and is past president of the East Tennessee Pro chapter. Amanda is also a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and the current president of the UT Science Forum.

Amanda received her master’s degree in Science Journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. During that time, she worked in the Office of Engineering Communications and completed an internship in technical writing at Oak Ridge National Lab’s Spallation Neutron Source. Her work has appeared in publications from UT’s College of Engineering and UT’s research magazine, Quest.

Amanda is former editor and publisher of Hellbender Press, East Tennessee’s nonprofit environmental newspaper.