Chuck Todd of NBC News to keynote Al Smith Awards Dinner Sept. 26 at Marriott Griffin Gate

KPA members to get special discount as David Thompson receives Al Smith Award from IRJCI, SPJ

By Al Cross, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues

Chuck Todd is host of NBC’s weekly ‘Meet The Press’

Chuck Todd, political director of NBC News and host of “Meet the Press,” will be the keynote speaker on the evening of Sept. 26 in Lexington as KPA Executive Director David Thompson receives the Al Smith Award for public service in community journalism by a Kentuckian.

The award is co-sponsored by the Bluegrass Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, part of the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky.

It is named for retired publisher Albert P. Smith Jr., who was founding producer and host of KET’s “Comment on Kentucky” and federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission. He was the driving force for creation of the Institute, headed its advisory board and is the board’s chair emeritus.

Thompson is the longest-serving executive of any newspaper association in the United States. On the day of the dinner, he will begin his 37th year as KPA executive director. In the last session of the General Assembly, he led successful efforts to defeat bills that would have substantially weakened the Kentucky Open Records Act.

His work has sometimes meant legislative battles with groups such as the Kentucky League of Cities, but it was the league that nominated him for the award.

“We have great respect for David’s integrity in all areas of his work,” KLC Deputy Executive Director J.D. Chaney wrote in his nomination. “He is a fierce and respected advocate for journalism in Kentucky.” He added, “We can think of no one who has shown more journalistic leadership in serving the communities of Kentucky. . . . He has represented Kentucky’s small, local newspapers above all else.”

Chuck Todd has been political director of NBC News since 2007 and host of “Meet the Press” since 2014. He also hosts “MTP Daily” on MSNBC and is the author of The Stranger: Barack Obama in the White House. He grew up in the Miami area, but his years of covering politics have given him an appreciation of rural places and people. On election night 2016, as he watched the county-by-county map of the U.S. go mainly red, he said, “This is rural America saying, ‘Stop ignoring us!’”

“We’re proud to welcome Chuck as our keynoter at the dinner,” said Al Cross, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. “At a time when journalism is under stress for many reasons, Chuck is widely recognized for his knowledge, skills and fairness.”

Cross said the dinner is “a grand gathering of people who believe in journalism as an essential element of our democratic processes and want it to observe high standards; who recognize the importance of rural America to the rest of the country; and who agree with us that rural Kentucky and rural America deserve good journalism just as much as the rest of the state and nation, to help our democracy work.”

The dinner will also recognize recipients of the SPJ chapter’s scholarships and this year’s winners of the Institute’s 2018 Tom and Pat Gish Award for courage, tenacity and integrity in rural journalism, to be announced next week.

The dinner will be held at the Marriott Griffin Gate Resort on Newtown Pike, near Interstates 75/64 in Lexington. A reception will begin at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m.  Tickets for the general public are $125, but KPA members may purchase one or two tickets for $75 apiece. Buy tickets and register online at:

For more information, including sponsorship opportunities, call Al Cross at 859-257-3744.

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