The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is seeking nominations, with a deadline of April 1, for its two annual awards:
• The Tom and Pat Gish Award for courage, integrity and tenacity in rural journalism, a national award that has been won by Kentuckians
• The Al Smith Award for public service through community journalism by Kentuckians, awarded in cooperation with the Bluegrass Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists
The Gish Award honors the crusading couple who published The Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg for more than 50 years. Tom Gish died in 2008 and Pat Gish died in 2014. Their son Ben continues to publish the Eagle and is on the committee that selects the award winner, which also includes some Eagle alumni.
The Smith Award is named for Albert P. Smith Jr., who owned weekly newspapers in Kentucky and Tennessee and was president of the Kentucky Press Association, federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, founding producer and host of KET’s “Comment on Kentucky” and a leader and member of many statewide civic organizations. Al Smith, 92, lives in Lexington and Sarasota and speaks at the dinner at which the award is presented, sometimes along with the Gish Award.
Nominations for either award should measure up, at least in major respects, to records of earlier winners. The Gishes won the first award named for them after withstanding advertiser boycotts, business competition, declining population, personal attacks, and even the burning of their office. The most recent Gish Award winners, the Cullen family of Iowa’s Storm Lake Times, overcame obstacles to persevere in covering and commenting on water-pollution issues in Iowa, often to the dislike of agribusiness interests that are sources of much of the pollution.
The most recent winners of the Al Smith Award were Ryan Craig, editor-publisher of the Todd County Standard and 2017 president of KPA, and his late uncle, Larry Craig, who was editor-publisher of the Green River Republican in Morgantown and a KPA president. Other recent winners have included Sharon Burton, editor-publisher of The Farmer’s Pride and the Adair County Community Voice, and the late Carl West, who was editor of The State Journal in Frankfort and founder of the Kentucky Book Fair.
Nominators should send detailed letters to Institute Director Al Cross, explaining how their nominees show the kind of exemplary courage, tenacity and integrity that the Gishes demonstrated in their rigorous pursuit of rural journalism or the sort of dedication to public service that Al Smith demonstrated in his career and through his newspapers. Detailed documentation does not have to accompany a nomination, but is helpful in choosing finalists, and additional documentation may be requested or required. Questions may be directed to Cross at 859-257-3744 or firstname.lastname@example.org. His postal address is 122 Grehan Journalism Building, University of Kentucky, Lexington KY 40506-0042.