of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues
concept of the institute was suggested by Rudy Abramson, author
and former White House correspondent for the Los Angeles Times,
now editing an Encyclopedia of Appalachia, a work in progress
for East Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee
Press. He shared his idea with Al Smith, producer of Kentucky
Educational Television's "Comment on Kentucky," who
owned a small chain of rural weeklies and was federal co-chair
of the Appalachian Rregional Commission in the Carter and Reagan
administrations. Smith and Al Cross, then political writer and
columnist for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal, advanced the concept
in lectures at the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University
of Virginia in the summer of 2001 and an article by Smith in The
American Editor, the magazine of the Amercian Society of Newspaper
Editors. They formed an ad hoc committee and approached the University
of Kentucky for support.
the fall of 2001, UK and the committee received a Sigma Delta
Chi Foundation grant of $25,000 and an Applachian Regional Commisison
grant of $30,000 for research to gather data on the need for a
proposed Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues,
to be based at UK and work with other institutions in a pilot
study area, Central Appalachia. The principal co-investigators
were Drs. Roy Moore and Ron Eller, respectively professors of
journalism and history at UK. The research project was an activity
of the Wendell Ford Center for Governance at UK, directed by Dr.
Terry Birdwhistell, a historian and university archivist.
grants funded quantitative and qualitative research by MDC Inc.
and the Program on Southern Politics, Media and Public Life at
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is directed
by veteran journalist Ferrel Guillory, former political reporter
and chief editorial writer for the Raleigh News and Observer,
and originator of the annual State of the South Report. The grants
also funded four conferences, in West Virginia, Tennessee, North
Carolina, and Kentucky to collect anecdotal and quantitative information
on rural issues and the press. The first conference, at UK, featured
a dozen journalists from five states discussing their personal
challenges in producing newspaper work in small communities and
the major recurring socio-economic issues they confront. Other
conferences were held in Charleston, W.Va.; Boone, N.C.; and Knoxville,
Tenn., all in the pilot study area, which also includes southwestern
Virginia. With help from a UK graduate assistant, the Institute
established a Web site.
July 2004, UK received the major grant for the Institute, from
the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The grant of $250,000
allowed UK to hire a director and two part-time staff members.
Under the grant, the Institute will conduct a pilot survey of
rural media in Central Applachia, in part to determine topics
in which training is needed; convene a conference of rural journalists
and national experts; provide a training session for the Southern
Newspaper Publishers Association; develop and teach a course in
rural journalism and post the content on the Institute's Web site;
and start a Web log for rural journalists. Al Cross became interim
director of the Institute on Aug. 1, 2004.
information about the grant from the Knight Foundation, go to:
information about the appointment of the interim director, click
here or: http://www.uky.edu/PR/News/040730_cross_director.htm