State health agencies honor journalist

Journalist Victoria “Tori” Kemper received the “Excellence in Collaboration” award from the Missouri Association of Local Public Health Agencies (MOALPHA) at an awards luncheon Sept. 21 in Columbia.

The luncheon was part of the joint public health conference “A Vision for a Healthier Missouri,” presented by MOALPHA, the Missouri Public Health Association, the Missouri Center for Public Health Excellence, the Missouri Institute for Community Health, and the Missouri Department of Health and Services for Seniors. The annual conference was held in person for the first time since 2019.

Kemper started as a reporter for the Democrat News/Daily Journal in August 2017. During her five years with the newspaper, she worked with Madison County organizations, agencies and government officials to provide important information and essential to readers every week.

One such agency is the Madison County Health Department, which appointed Kemper. Madison County Health Department Administrator Becky Hunt presented Kemper with her award.

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“It’s hard to put into words what it means to me to have the Madison County Health Department nominate me for this award. I’m extremely grateful to even be considered, let alone chosen to receive it,” Kemper said.

Hunt said the Democrat News has been a great partner to the health department during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Tori wrote articles weekly for over a year, focusing on the ever-evolving pandemic and emphasizing Center for Disease Control guidelines regardless of opposition to those recommendations,” Hunt said.

Hunt said Kemper has helped the health department, school districts, and county and city governments get their messages out to the public in print and online.

“Tori has been instrumental in helping Madison County and Southeastern Missouri Public Health reach our audiences who are not Facebook participants and reinforce our public health messaging,” Hunt said.

Kemper accepted the award and said she will always cherish the relationship she and the newspaper have with the health department.

“The era of COVID-19 was difficult for everyone,” Kemper said. “We all did our job and tried to stay positive, but it seemed like whatever you did someone wasn’t happy. I may have gotten a nice plaque to hang on my wall, but the Madison County Health Department helped us through a pandemic, and I will always be grateful.

Hunt also presented the Legislative Friend of Public Health Award to Sen. Roy Blunt, who was nominated by the Madison County Health Department.