Need advice? Call or write the Institute

hburgThere are thousands of very good journalists all over rural America, but all too often they are the only person in their newsroom who fits that description. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues was created in part to address that problem, by offering advice and guidance to rural journalists who need to look beyond their newsroom for it. We haven't emphasized this service, mainly because of our small staff. But now we are happy to invite your requests for consultations, because the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky, where we are based, now has a part-time journalist in residence: John Winn Miller, former publisher or executive editor of daily papers in Tallahassee, Fla., Olympia, Wash., Concord, N.H., and State College, Pa., and city editor of the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader.

Our first consultancy is with The Harrodsburg Herald, an independently owned weekly in Kentucky's oldest town. Publisher April Ellis is in the photo with Institute Director Al Cross at left and Miller at right. "Working with Al Cross and John Miller has been extremely helpful," she wrote. "Their advice and critiques, which are backed by years of experience, have opened our eyes to some of the routines we have inadvertently become dependent on and are helping us think outside the box to bring creativity back into the newsroom and ultimately produce a better paper for our readers." If you want help of a general or specific nature, call the Institute at 859-257-3744 or email Cross at al.cross@uky.edu.

Institute offers fellowships to Rural Computer-Assisted Reporting Boot Camp

IRE logologoComputer-assisted reporting skills are an essential part of a good newsroom, but rural journalists often lack access to such training. The Institute and Investigative Reporters and Editors offer a fellowship to IRE's Computer-Assisted Reporting Boot Camp, a highly rearded five-day course, thanks to gifts from Daniel Gilbert, a Wall Street Journal energy reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for the Bristol Herald Courier in 2010 with reporting that used skills he gained at an IRE Boot Camp. He donated his $10,000 prize from another contest, the Scripps Howard Awards, The Scripps Howard Foundation matched his gift, and the state of Kentucky matched both gifts. Other gifts have boosted the Fund for Rural Computer-Assisted Reporting. For more on Gilbert, click here.

DGMOWith a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, IRE and the Institute held two mini-boot camps for rural journalists, in 2012 at East Tennessee State University and in 2013 at the University of Kentucky. At right, Gilbert watched Michael Owens of the Herald Courier work on an exercise at the workshop.

MartinKate Martin of the Skagit Valley Herald in Mt. Vernon, Wash., was the first IRE boot camp fellow. Thanks to it, she wrote, "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."

For more testimonials from R-CAR fellows, examples of the work they have done with the new skills, and how to apply for an R-CAR fellowship, click here.

Kentuckians win Gish Award for courage, integrity, tenacity in rural journalism, Smith Award for service

A couple who created a new sense of community in rural America with an online news site, and a crusading weekly editor who set an example that drew national attention, are the winners of the Institute's top awards this year.

The awards are the Al Smith Award for public service in community journalism by a Kentuckian, which is co-sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists Bluegrass Chapter, and the Tom and Pat Gish Award for the courage, tenacity and integrity that are so often needed to do good rural journalism.

ArderyBishopThe Smith Award, named for the Institute's co-founder, goes to Bill Bishop and Julie Ardery, husband and wife of La Grange, Texas, and natives of Louisville. For several years recently they were co-editors of the Daily Yonder, the online news site of the Center for Rural Strategies, which Institute Director Al Cross says has “created a much greater sense of community among rural people in a diverse, changing rural America."

WillsThe Gish Award goes posthumously to Landon Wills, who was publisher of the McLean County News in Calhoun, Ky., from 1946 to 1972, and editor for almost all that time. He was the subject of a national television documentary in 1963 after advocating for civil rights and community development, and against religious prejudice and political mendacity.

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 died in 2014, 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 awards were presented in November 2014 before a large crowd at the Institute's 10th Anniversary and Awards Dinner. For details on the awards, click here.

China seminar group

Institute hosts Sino-U.S. Community Media Seminar

Community newspaper people from China and the United States found common ground, despite great differences in their environments, at the Second Sino-U.S. Community Media Seminar hosted by the Institute Jan. 8-9, 2015.

The program revealed that Chinese community papers share with their U.S. counterparts the desire to tell stories of local people in the face of dramatic economic challenges. For a report on the seminar, click here.

The seminar was co-sponsored by the Xinmin Evening News, Shanghai's largest afternoon paper, with many community editions; and the University of Kentucky Confucius Institute. It attracted 25 U.S. newspaper executives and academics, and brought from China 10 newspaper executives and journalists, six local-government officials and a Shanghai University professor, You You. She was a visiting scholar with the Institite in 2012-13, when the first seminar was held in Shanghai, and led arrangements for the second one.

Dr. You discussed her research on rural China at the first Global Mountain Regions Conference, held by the UK Appalachian Center, and 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 Community 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 Eastern 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.

More on coal 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 figured in Kentucky's 2014 U.S. Senate race, in which Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell talked often about the Obama administration's "War on Coal."

Cross and Bill Goodman of Kentucky Educational Television taught a course, "Covering the Senate Race," in fall 2014. To read the students' reporting, click here.He and journalist-in-residence John Winn Miller will teach a course, "Covering the Governor's Race," in fall 2015.



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