Arkansas Business' coverage of Walmart Inc.'s response to a spate of gun-related incidents in its stores and a former state senator's acknowledgement that he accepted bribes were recognized Thursday with gold awards from the Alliance of Area Business Publishers.
Gold awards also went to the Morning Roundup, ArkansasBusiness.com's daily e-newsletter of business news from around the web, and Greenhead, Arkansas Business Publishing Group's annual magazine for and about duck hunters. Arkansas Business received a silver award for bylined commentary.
The AABP, which represents 55 independent business publications in the United States, Canada and Australia, recognized journalism produced in 2019 with an online awards ceremony.
Kyle Massey's Aug. 19 article headlined "Walmart, Guns and Money" was judged as the best coverage of a national business or economic story by a medium-sized business journal. All entries in the contest were judged by journalism faculty from the University of Missouri at Columbia.
"Getting the nation’s largest employer to talk openly about anything is no easy feat, so you’ve struck journalistic gold when you get its top executives to grapple on the record with questions about its policies toward the sale of guns, ammunition — and customers’ freedom to carry firearms into its stores," the judges' comments said. "The story is very well done."
Online reporting about former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson's guilty plea to accepting bribes from orthodontist Ben Burris was recognized as the best coverage of local breaking news by a medium-sized publication. While the report carried the byline of Editor Gwen Moritz, the news of a guilty plea was enriched by years of earlier reporting by Mark Friedman and Marty Cook that allowed Arkansas Business to be the first news organization to identify Burris as the alleged source of the bribes. Burris was later indicted and is scheduled for trial in October.
"A state senator who already had been caught up in a long-running corruption scandal involving a Medicaid provider of mental health services found himself on the wrong side of federal prosecutors again when they charged him with accepting bribes from a local orthodontist pursuing a legislative agenda and legal favors from the senator," the judges said. "The Arkansas Business staff jumped on the new indictment and used previous reporting on the orthodontist’s strange relationship with the senator to add revealing context."
"Morning Roundup," compiled and written every weekday morning by Online Editor Lance Turner, was named the best daily email among all publications in the organization, regardless of size. Turner and the Morning Roundup received the same gold recognition in 2018. You can sign up to receive the newsletter for free here.
"This newsletter impresses by being stuffed with content that immediately helps its readership start the day. It presents a variety of information, including market and employment information, news summaries, and upcoming events," the judges' comments said, calling the roundup "a useful source for people who read every word and also for those who just peruse."
Greenhead was recognized as the best ancillary publication in the AABP — its seventh award and fourth gold. Its publisher is Chris Bahn, and Brent Birch is its editor, with support from Managing Editor Todd Traub and Art Director Dean Wheeler.
"The publication is particularly strong on photography, both in the editing and the presentation," the judges said. "The design uses white space excellently, and the layouts lead readers into the beautifully written stories."
Editor Gwen Moritz received the silver award for bylined commentary among medium-sized publications with a portfolio of columns that included one on "The Business Case for Diversity." Moritz received a silver award in the same category in 2018 and gold in 2017. The judges called Moritz's work "a regular dose of reflection and inspiration on challenging topics for Arkansas readers."