Kolton Rutherford, a 2020 graduate of the School of Mass Communication, has been named to Editor and Publisher’s 2023 class of 25 Under 35, representing the talented next generation of news media professionals!
“I was shocked a few weeks ago when I opened my email and saw the notification from E&P about my selection,” Rutherford said. “I had no idea I had been nominated, and to find out that someone respected my work enough to nominate me and then to have the magazine actually select me was overwhelming. I still have a hard time believing I’m worthy of this recognition, but I’m so grateful for it.”
Editor and Publisher is a monthly trade publication that has been covering the news industry since 1901. The announcement notes that this year’s group of young journalists honored are the future of journalism, one that is “inspired, passionate and innovative, reinvigorated by fresh ideas and talent.”
“Kolton was a standout as a student, so it’s nice to see him continuing to achieve to his fullest potential,” said Dr. Jamie M. Byrne-McCollum, professor of mass communication.
Rutherford graduated from UA Little Rock with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication with a journalism emphasis and a minor in sports management. After graduation, Rutherford, a native of Maumelle, participated in a summer internship at the Log Cabin Democrat in Conway through the Arkansas Newspaper Foundation’s internship program, which sponsors college journalists to work as interns in newspapers who are members of the Arkansas Press Association.
The internship led to a full-time position as a general assignment reporter at the Log Cabin Democrat, which Rutherford left in 2021 to join a preschool where he helped in creating a monthly newsletter and writing articles. He returned to the Log Cabin Democrat last year as a senior reporter.
“In the two-and-a-half years since I graduated, I’ve had so many opportunities to cover topics I never expected to,” he said. “I’ve covered local and state education, local and state politics at the Arkansas State Capitol covering the General Assembly and so much more.”
Rutherford advises young news professionals to be open to new opportunities by taking on assignments outside their comfort zone.
“First and foremost, don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone,” he said. “Be open to covering stories and topics you don’t have much experience in if you’re asked to. Arm yourself with the knowledge gained through other experiences and explore new territory you haven’t covered before. You might find the topic to be one you want to continue to pursue in the future.”
Rutherford’s editor at the Log Cabin Democrat, Jeanette Stewart, nominated him for E&P’s Class of 25 Under 35 and has served as an amazing mentor to Rutherford in his early career.
“From the moment I started there, she’s always been willing to answer questions and give advice. The trust she has had in me since Day One to do my job has empowered me to take risks and push myself to become a better journalist,” Rutherford said.
The most interesting story Rutherford’s ever worked on has been a series on food security he wrote with Stewart in 2021 that won an award from the Arkansas Press Association.
“The series we put together was informative and incredibly interesting and provided a multi-layered look at the ongoing problem of food insecurity in Arkansas, especially regarding how the coronavirus pandemic, which had started just over a year earlier, exacerbated the problem,” he said.
Having come from a family of writers, Rutherford always knew he wanted to go into mass communication from a young age.
“My dad, grandfather, uncle, and brother are all writers, and that environment of writing that I grew up in shaped me from a very early age,” Rutherford said. “At UA Little Rock, Sonny Rhodes was and remains a significant mentor that has shaped me as a journalist. I use the concepts I learned in his classes every day, and Professor Rhodes remains someone I still reach out to for questions or just to update him on what’s going on in my career. I wouldn’t be the writer I am today without all these people and so many more.”
Rhodes, an associate professor of journalism and advisor to the student newspaper The Forum, said Rutherford’s recognition is highly deserved.
“I am extremely happy for Kolton and proud of him,” Rhodes said. “He was a model student, whether in the classroom or in his work with The Forum. Whatever assignment came his way, he could be counted on to do an outstanding job. I have never known anyone more enthusiastic in taking on assignments or more conscientious in completing them. It has been such a pleasure to watch him grow as a student and now as a professional journalist.”