Rural Computer-Assisted Reporting workshop conveys critical skills; fellowship available to full-scale CAR Boot Camp

IRE logologoTwelve journalists from five states and Washington, D.C., learned computer-assisted reporting or honed their basic CAR skills at a workshop at the University of Kentucky, sponsored by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and Investigative Reporters and Editors. This was the second Rural Computer-Assisted Reporting Investigate Mini-Boot Camp funded by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation; the first was held at East Tennessee State University. For a short video about the current workshop, produced by UK journalism professor Buck Ryan on his iPhone with ReelDirector, click here.

Daniel Gilbert, left, with Mike Owens at the workshop
Daniel Gilbert, left, with Herald-Courier's Mike Owens at ETSU

The R-CAR program was started with a gift to the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues from Daniel Gilbert, a Wall Street Journal energy reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for the Bristol Herald Courier in 2010 with his reporting on state and energy-company mismanagement of pooled natural-gas royalties in Southwest Virginia. He donated his $10,000 prize from another contest, the Scripps Howard Awards, to the Institute's endowment to create a fund that sends journalists to IRE's six-day CAR boot camp, at which he learned the skills that enabled him to do the series. The Scripps Howard Foundation matched his gift, and the state of Kentucky matched both, creating a $40,000 fund that generates enough earnings to sponsor two journalists each year. (Read more)

MartinKate Martin of the Skagit Valley Herald, in Mt. Vernon, Wash., was the inaugral IRE boot camp fellow. She says thanks to the CAR boot camp "I am no longer at the mercy of my sources to look up a figure or fact for me. I can have them send me the source file and work with it on my own." (Read more)

If you are a rural journalist interested in applying for a fellowship to a full, six-day IRE CAR boot camp, click here to download an application and details.


Nominations sought for Gish Award for courage, integrity, tenacity in rural journalism by Aug. 1

AustinsJonathan and Susan Austin of the Yancey County News in Burnsville, N.C., won the 2012 Tom and Pat Gish Award for courage, tenacity and integrity in rural journalism. The Austins showed courage in starting a second newspaper in a one-newspaper town, in January 2011, then demonstrated courage, tenacity and integrity by their reporting on local corruption. (Photo by Bill Sanders, Asheville Citizen-Times)

No award was made in 2013. Nominations for the 2014 award are being sought, and the deadline for mailing them is Aug. 1, 2014. Send them to IRJCI, 122 Grehan Building, University of Kentucky, Lexington KY 40506-0042, with whatever documentation you think necessary. More may be requested.

The award is named for Tom and Pat Gish, who published The Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg, Ky., for more than 51 years. Tom died in 2008; Pat remains publisher, and their son Ben is editor. The Gishes have withstood advertiser boycotts, business competition, declining population, personal attacks, and even the burning of their office to give their readers the kind of journalism often lacking in rural areas.

The award committee includes Ben Gish, son of Tom and Pat Gish and editor of The Mountain Eagle. He said of the Austins, “Even though it occurred a few decades apart, I get the same feeling from looking at the examples of their work as I do when I look at copies of the Eagle when my parents were just getting started in the late 1950s.” For more on the Austins, click here. For their crowd-funding site, go here.

The winners in 2011 were Stanley Nelson and the weekly Concordia Sentinel of Ferriday, La., for probing an unsolved murder from the civil-rights era, and naming and interviewing a living suspect. (Read more) Other winners have been Samantha Swindler, editor-publisher of the Headlight Herald in Tillamook, Ore., in 2010 for work as editor of the Corbin, Ky., Times-Tribune and managing editor of the Jacksonville (Tex.) Daily Progress; Jim Prince and Stanley Dearman, current and former publishers of The Neshoba Democrat of  Philadelphia, Miss., in 2008; the Ezzell family of The Canadian (Tex.) Record, in 2007; and the Gishes themselves in 2005.


Institute hosts visiting scholar from China

Dr. You You, a sociologist and lecturer in the Department of Journalism at Shanghai University, spent the 2012-13 academic year with the Institute to build on the research she has done in China on the role of mass media in rural areas.

Dr. You discussed her research at the first Global Mountain Regions Conference, held by the University of Kentucky's Appalachian Center in October 2012. Here's a short video about it, by Buck Ryan of the UK School of Journalism and Telecommunications:

After consultations with UK faculty, she focused her research on Clay County, Kentucky, and the community of Oneida. Below, she confers with Jay Nolan of Nolan Newspapers, publisher of The Manchester Enterprise, about a survey that the company mailed to a random sample of Enterprise readers and all residents of Oneida to assist with her research.


The Enterprise also benefited from the work of Mary Austin, a student in Institute Director Al Cross's Communty Journalism course. She wrote a front-page lead story for the Enterprise about a local political forum which the paper's editor moderated, and did a story for newspapers in the East Kentucky Coalfield about a more favorable attitude toward the coal industry in the region because of changing conditions in the industry, the economy and politics.

Those findings were reflected in the 2012 defeat of Democratic U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler, whose district had been moved eastward to take in counties near the coalfield, and may figure in Kentucky's 2014 U.S. Senate race, in which Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell talks often about the Obama administration's "War on Coal."

Institute Director Al Cross will teach a course, "Covering the Senate Race," in Fall 2014.

John Nelson wins Smith Award for public service through journalism

John A. Nelson, who has been a leader for openness in government and quality in journalism during his career at weekly and daily newspapers, received the 2013 Al Smith Award for public nelsonservice through community journalism, presented for a career of public service through community journalism in Kentucky, or anywhere by a current or former Kentuckian, with preference to those in rural areas.

Nelson is executive editor of Danville-based Advocate Communications, a subsidiary of Schurz Communications of South Bend, Ind., which publishes The Advocate-Messenger of Danville, The Winchester Sun, The Jessamine Journal and The Interior Journal of Stanford. Before joining the Danville newspaper as an editor, Nelson was editor and co-publisher of Pulaski Week, which was an award-winning weekly paper in Somerset. He is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University.

The Al Smith Award is named for its first recipient, the rural newspaper publisher who was founding producer and host of KET’s “Comment on Kentucky.” It is presented by the Bluegrass Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. Smith is a national SPJ Fellow and co-founder of the Institute, and chairman emeritus of its national advisory board.


The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is supported by the University of Kentucky and donors who support our mission. To make a tax-deductible donation to the endowment, via a secure Web site, click here and select the Institute from the pull-down list of funds; to make a tax-deductible gift to our operating account, choose "Other" and type in "IRJCI operating."

Institute for Rural Journalism & Community Issues
School of Journalism and Telecommunications, College of Communications & Information 122 Grehan Building, University of Kentucky, Lexington KY 40506-0042
Phone 859-257-3744 - Fax 859-323-3168

Al Cross, director al.cross@uky.edu