Nov. 15, 2004

To: Friends of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues

From: Al Cross, interim director

The Institute has been staffed for three and a half months, and we have been busy. With elections behind us and the holidays looming, this seems like a good time to give folks an update.

The Rural Blog: With the help of new staff assistant Bill Griffin, and our three graduate assistants in communication, our Web log is now in its second month of Monday-through-Friday publication. It developed a loyal following soon after its introduction one week after your director began work, and our list-serv for notices of blog postings continues to grow. Our graduate assistants are Krista Kimmel, Alan Lowhorn and Josh Tucker.

Conferences: We have five in the works, most with partners of some kind.

Late February or early March: Covering Health in Mid-Appalachia, in cooperation with the UK Center for Rural Health in Hazard. Appalachia has one of the least healthy populations in America, and health care is one of our major issues.

Late March or early April: Conference at Appalachian State University, following through on conference that was canceled because of snow during the Institute’s pilot period. Stuart Towns at ASU will advise us about subject matter.

April or close to it: Full programming, probably focusing on jobs and economic development, for the spring meeting of the Western Kentucky Press Association. Location may depend on sponsorship; meeting could be expanded to journalists from other states.

June 12-17: National conference on covering rural issues, Knight Center for Specialized Journalism, University of Maryland. We are the programmers for this conference, for which the Knight Center folks will select the participants, and want to give experts from our partner schools an opportunity to be among the presenters. More information will be forthcoming.

September: Covering the Capitals from Your Hometown, at the Center for Rural Development in Somerset, Ky. In partnership with the National Press Foundation and the Kiplinger Fellows Program at The Ohio State University.

We also plan to make presentations at the conventions of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications in San Antonio in August, and at the Society of Professional Journalists in Las Vegas in September

Tom and Pat Gish Award: Named for the longtime publishers of The Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg, this national award will be presented annually (we hope) to journalists who demonstrate the courage and tenacity often needed among rural journalists to defend the public interest and advance the public agenda in rural communities. The first award will be given to the Gishes themselves, probably at the Hazard conference.

Cooperative course work: One of the options the Institute’s academic partners discussed at our meeting in Whitesburg was a reporting project on the future of tobacco farming and tobacco communities. With the tobacco buyout a reality, the culture and economics of tobacco will undergo the greatest change in more than 65 years, so your director has tentatively decided to make this the subject of the Special Topics in Journalism course that he will teach at UK during the spring semester. We hope to attract newspapers and students on our partner campuses to contribute to this project. More details will be shared with the partners in a separate memo.

SNPA presentation: Our first major presentation will be at the traveling campus of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association on Nov. 30 in Richmond, Va. Al Smith and I have worked up an outline on editorial leadership – how to lead your community through the news and editorial pages and still get along with people and stay in business, using examples from his career. We welcome your suggestions for points and examples.

Newspaper survey: The grant UK received from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation calls for the Institute to survey newspapers in Central Appalachia about their training needs. We will also gather information about ownership, management, circulation, staff experience and backgrounds, and what sort of training journalists in the region want and need. We also hope to study the nature of chain owners, such as how many papers they own, whether they are publicly traded or not, and whether chain papers share news content. We also want to look at circulation trends, measuring them against population and noting the out-of-county circulation. Many Appalachian expatriates still get their hometown papers, which artificially inflates the papers’ local penetration rates. Results of the survey are to be presented at the Appalachian Studies Conference at Radford ( Va.) University on March 19, 2005. Academic partners have agreed to sign letters to news executives in their respective states seeking participation in the survey.

Radio survey: Following completion of the newspaper survey, we plan to survey radio stations in our five pilot-region states to measure the extent of local radio news coverage. Our model for this may be a survey done by Appalachian State in cooperation with the North Carolina Association of Broadcasters. We may also draw on the work of Liz Hansen and Ferrell Wellman of Eastern Kentucky University, who did an article for the forthcoming Encyclopedia of Appalachia on broadcast news in the region, using West Virginia as an example.

Syllabus exchange: Academic partners agreed in Whitesburg to share course syllabi and perhaps student work. Details on these topics will be addresses in the separate memo to the partners.

National and state notice: When James Dao of The New York Times wanted an expert to talk about vote fraud in Appalachia and the impact of rural voters on the election, he called your director, who was quoted in Dao’s story in the Times on Nov. 4. Your director was interviewed before the election by CNN, NPR (whose rural correspondent, Howard Berkes, is on our listserv), USA Today, People magazine and the Philadelphia Inquirer, and this week spoke by phone with a graduate journalism class at the University of California-Berkeley. Your director has made many broadcast and personal appearances, including several “Comment on Kentucky” shows on KET and meetings of interest groups.

Professional affiliations: The Institute will present a breakout program at the Kentucky Press Association convention in January, and will be represented at the Tennessee Press Association convention in February. KPA editors were sent an e-mail about the Institute, and we are a featured link on KPA’s home page. The Institute joined the National Newspaper Association; your director attended the NNA convention in Denver, the Associated Press Managing Editors conference in Louisville, and joined the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors.

Special project: The Institute did the initial research for journalistic, literary and other written materials to be used in prototype, online assessments of student reading skills, under a contract the University of Kentucky has with the Kentucky Department of Education.

Fund-raising: Initial efforts have begun, with trips to see potential contributors and fund-raisers. Thanks to all of you for your support.


Institute for Rural Journalism & Community Issues

University of Kentucky
College of Communications and Information Studies

122 Grehan Building, Lexington, KY 40506-0042

Phone: (859) 257-3744, Fax: (859) 323-9879

Questions about the web site: Contact Al Cross, interim director, al.cross@uky.edu

Last Updated: Nov. 11, 2004