rural broadcasters recognized by colleagues
Don Neagle of WRUS Radio in Russellville
and Jim Freeland of WCBL AM-FM in Benton received
the Kentucky Mike award for outstanding personal contributions to
Kentucky broadcasting at the fall 2005 conference of the Kentucky
Broadcasters Association. Both are great examples of good small-town
broadcasters (Freeland said "I have lived the dream"),
but Neagle is an old friend of Al Cross, director of the Institute
for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, so this report
focuses on Neagle.
Francis Nash of Grayson, the recognized historian of Kentucky broadcasting,
introduced Neagle as "a very historic radio figure." He
said, "Don Neagle . . . has become a true household name in
Western Kentucky, and I think Don certainly epitomizes what a small-town
broadcaster is supposed to be, wearing every hat you can think of
– announcer, salesman, news reporter, sports commentator and
manager, and I’m sure probably swept a few floors, too. Folks
in Logan County have been waking up to his smooth delivery, his
sharp insights and his jovial manner for half of a century. His
‘Feedback’ show has served as a platform for local,
regional and national figures. He’s earned the respect of
the community there, and that respect has certainly gone beyond
the boundaries of that community and the radio station."
Neagle, said, "This all I ever wanted to do. My mother made
a picture of me at four years old talking into a little headset
on my uncle’s crystal radio, pretending I was on the radio."
Neagle, 68, started broadcasting in 1954 from a remote studio in
his hometown of Greensburg for a Campbellsville station. He moved
from Campbellsville to Harrodsburg to Glasgow to Bowling Green before
going to Russellville in 1958, shortly after the arrival there of
print journalist Al Smith, whom Neagle said "taught me something
about integrity in reporting news." Cross, who worked from
1975 to 1977 at the newspaper Smith owned Russellville, writes:
"Don Neagle is a shining example of the essential role that
small-town journalists must play in their communities -- trusted
reporters, valued commentators, active citizens, community builders
and conveners of civil, public discourse."
Other award winners were: Nash, the Al Temple Award for service
to KBA; Greg Stotlemyer of WTVQ-TV, Lexington,
Kentucky Farm Bureau Communications Award; J.B.
Crawley of Campbellsville and Roger Jeffers of Hopkinsville, J.T.
Whitlock Life Member Award for retiring broadcasters; and Jack Crowner
Service Radio Network, Ralph Gabbard Distinguished
Service Award. Crowner, who retired in January from Clear
Channel in Louisville, is a familiar name in farm circles;
he was president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters
in 1970, its Farm Broadcaster of the Year in 1990 and inducted into
its Hall of Fame in 2004. Stotlemyer, who won the Farm Bureau award
for coverage of big changes in tobacco, told the crowd he "thought
tobacco was cabbage" when he moved to Kentucky years ago, but
"I really enjoyed telling the stories of the farmers around
the state, because they are the backbone of the state."