FOR YEARS, Stan Morris had thought about doing his own thing—breaking off from traditional media, launching an online news outlet with a local bent. He’d worked as a journalist since 2007, but it wasn’t until a brief stint at The Jonesboro Sun that he felt a pressing urge to take the leap. So, in June 2016, he ended his tenure at the newspaper, trading in a sure paycheck for an unsure one, and kickstarted the NEA Report out of his Jonesboro home. He now serves as owner, editor and primary writer of the website, which—thanks to Stan’s thorough reporting—has garnered well-deserved attention from the industry’s heavy hitters, including the likes of The Washington Post, CBS News and The Associated Press.

On staying on top of things:

“Every morning, I wake up about 5 a.m., sometimes earlier. I go through all of these different news sources. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and at this point, it’s kind of out of instinct. I would do it even if I didn’t have the [NEA Report]. I try to find out exactly what’s going on. The Jonesboro Sun is a great resource for everybody, I think. Other outlets in the area are as well. Plus, I’ll check in with certain people, and I’ll also just try to make sure I follow up on my own stories. Staying on top of things is an imperfect science because nobody can do it 100 percent of the time. I try to be happy when I can get the story first, and I’m happy for others when they get it first, and I get to follow up on it or something.”

On stories he likes chasing after the most:

“I love covering news that nobody else is covering. I love finding stories that nobody else has reported. And I have a knack for that. I can find news that nobody’s recognized as news. Stories related to criminal justice are my specialty. I always try to cover it from the side of the innocent, from the side of the victim and from the side of the police. There are so many angles to consider—and oftentimes, especially new reporters don’t take into account how delicate each word is in affecting an entire life or a career of a police officer or the psyche of a victim who people may decide not to believe based on certain wordings. So, the reason I think criminal justice is an area I like the most is because I realize the gravity of every word that I write, and I’m so careful. Of course, I still make mistakes, but I respect the process and I believe in it. I try to help others to understand it and to see it, and to correct mistakes when they’re made.”

On what he wants to accomplish:

“I want the website to do what it has already in many ways, but I want to continue to push to improve the news quality in this area. It’s not just about me or my product, it’s actually about the people in this area getting better news quality overall. If one person ups their game, everybody else has to up their game, too, to get on that level. That’s all I’m trying to do with each story I cover. It may not have as many articles—but they’re going to be the best. It’s going to be carefully done, respectfully done, and at the same time, thorough and hard-hitting when it needs to be. We’re a small area. Jonesboro is considered a small market for media. That means we’re always going to be a place where young reporters come, train a little bit and then move on. In my case, I live here and grew up here, and I want to give back and keep that going.”

On what it means to be a journalist today:

“I will just say that I appreciate those who have been going out of their way to be supportive because right now is a very negative time to be a member of the press that chooses to tell the truth instead of to tell people what they want to hear. The only reason that I can get through this difficult period is the support from people who realize that I’m not going with the grain, that I’m going against the grain, but I’m doing it to tell the truth. Despite the hate and the trolls and the online critics, those people that are positive and that motivate and encourage are so much more important and essential to all this than they realize. In this very difficult time, I would say support is a critical element.”