Meet the Institute Director
Al Cross became director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues in 2004 after more than 26 years as a reporter at The Courier-Journal, the last 15½ as the Louisville newspaper's chief political writer. His coverage ranged from presidential to local elections and included all facets of state government. He is also an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, where the Institute is based. His faculty appointment is in the Extension Title Series, reflecting something he said earlier, that his short job description is "extension agent for rural journalists," with most of his work directed off campus. For a PDF of his curriculum vitae, click here.
His awards include a share of the Pulitzer Prize won by The Courier-Journal staff in 1989 for coverage of the nation's deadliest bus crash. He was co-recipient of an award for environmental reporting in the Southern Journalism Awards for a 1987 series on strip mining. He has received several awards for reporting and column writing from the Louisville Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2009 the East Kentucky Leadership Foundation gave the Institute its annual Media Award, with special recognition for Cross, the Institute's only full-time staff member. In 2010 he entered the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame and in 2011 won the Wells Key, SPJ's top award for service to the Society. The Kentucky Psychological Association gave him its Media Award in 2013 for his work as publisher of Kentucky Health News and his service on the Friedell Committee for Health System Transformation, which is working to improve Kentucky's health. In 2015 he received the James Madison Award for service to the First Amendment from the Scripps Howard First Amendment Center in the UK School of Journalism and Media.
Cross was the elected national president of SPJ, the nation's oldest, broadest and largest journalism organization, from October 2001 to September 2002. He was a charter member of his college SPJ chapter, president of the Louisville chapter, vice president of the Bluegrass Chapter, first chairman of the 1990 national convention in Louisville, chairman of an SPJ regional conference, and regional director for Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois on the national SPJ board in 1987-89. He was national chairman of Project Watchdog, an SPJ effort to explain the role of the news media in a democratic society. He has been chairman of the SPJ Resolutions and Government Relations committees, a member of the International Journalism Committee and the Ethics Committee, and a director of SPJ's Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.
He is the longest-running panelist on KET's weekly "Comment on Kentucky," has appeared on C-SPAN and "Washington Week In Review," and has been quoted in The Almanac of American Politics. He is the author of the Kentucky Encyclopedia article on Gov. Wallace Wilkinson and a major contributor to the book Kentucky's Governors. He is the author of an article in Campaigns and Elections: Contemporary Case Studies, published in 2002 by Congressional Quarterly, and the foreword for Kentucky 24-7, a book of photographs published in 2004 as part of a national, state-by-state project. He and his brother David, an Albany attorney, co-authored “Republican Redoubt: The Politics of Kentucky’s Upper Cumberland,” a chapter in People of the Upper Cumberland (University of Tennessee Press, 2015). He is secretary of the Kentucky Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee, a non-profit, non-partisan organization.
Cross is a graduate of Clinton County High School and Western Kentucky University, where he was chief reporter, editor and advertising manager of the award-winning College Heights Herald, and served on the Academic Council and student government. While in high school and college, he was an announcer at WANY AM-FM and wrote for the Clinton County News. He was editor and general manager of The Reporter in Monticello in 1975; assistant managing editor of The Logan Leader and The News-Democrat at Russellville in 1975-77; and editor and general manager of the Leitchfield Gazette and the Grayson County News-Gazette in 1977-78. He began work for The Courier-Journal at the Somerset bureau in May 1978, covering former president Richard Nixon's coming-out visit to Hyden that summer. He moved with the bureau to Bardstown in 1979, when it became the Central Kentucky Bureau and he covered the visit of President Jimmy Carter. He began covering the Kentucky General Assembly in 1980 and wrote about many topics including energy, the environment, county finances, land-use planning and local and state politics. While based in the paper's main office in Louisville in 1984-86, he covered education, transportation and politics. He joined the C-J's Frankfort Bureau in 1987 and became political writer in 1989. His political columns became weekly in 1999. He continues to write occasional columns for the newspaper. His Twitter handle is @ruralj.
Alvin Miller Cross was born April 24, 1954 in Knoxville, Tenn., and grew up in Albany, Ky., nestled between Lake Cumberland, Dale Hollow Lake, the western front of the Appalachians and the Tennessee border. His father, Perry Cross, was a politically active businessman who was state representative for Clinton and Cumberland counties in 1948-49. His mother, Winnie Miller Cross, was an East Tennessee native and Berea College graduate. He is married to Patti Hodges Cross, a Grayson County native and an independent designer/editor of publications. A former Lion, Kiwanian and Rotarian, he enjoys reading, touring, boating, photography, West Highland White Terriers and helping his wife restore their historical home in historic South Frankfort, near the Capitol.