Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Managing Editor Eliza Gaines is scrambling after losing three award-winning projects team reporters to the four winds — Ginny Monk, Kat Stromquist and now Eric Besson.
Gaines is interviewing job applicants to fill the void, and Lara Farrar has moved from the state desk to the projects team, now led by former Jonesboro Sun reporter Hunter Field, who joined the Democrat-Gazette in 2016.
“It’s always hard to lose talented journalists and these three will certainly be missed,” Gaines told Whispers, particularly noting that Besson and Stromquist had left the journalism field altogether.
She’s eager to utilize Farrar, whose experience includes a decade as a foreign correspondent in China. “I’m excited to see what kind of investigative projects she produces,” Gaines said.
The most recent exit was Besson, a University of Mississippi graduate and five-year veteran of the Little Rock paper who took a top prize in last year’s Arkansas Press Women Professional Communication Contest. Besson led a team including Monk and Stromquist in producing “Lives Remembered,” a series on Arkansans lost to COVID-19.
In recent weeks, Besson took a communications job with the American Red Cross in New Orleans, friends say.
Monk left the Democrat-Gazette in August to join her fiance, former statehouse reporter John Moritz, as a reporter for Hearst Connecticut Media Group. That group owns several newspapers, including the Connecticut Post. Monk had worked for the Democrat-Gazette since graduating from the University of Arkansas in 2017. She won first place for in-depth reporting in the Arkansas Press Women’s contest and took the Arkansas Press Association’s 2020 Freedom of Information Award in July for her “Children in Peril” series, which relied on data obtained through the state’s open records law to tell the story of how children die in Arkansas, including a high number of gun deaths.
Stromquist, who left the paper in September to be a public sector researcher, is a Tulane University graduate and decorated data journalist.
“We are currently interviewing applicants to round out the team,” said Gaines, whose father, Walter Hussman Jr., is the newspaper’s publisher. “I’ve been very pleased with Hunter Field’s leadership and initiative as our projects editor.”