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
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
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.
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.