Mary Berry to speak at Al Smith awards dinner that honors Lebanon Enterprise publisher Stevie Lowery

The annual Al Smith Awards Dinner in Lexington on Oct. 18 will spotlight a rural editor-publisher who has taken strong stands and tackled touchy subjects in her weekly newspaper, and a farmer, activist and writer who will speak about the future of rural Kentucky and rural America.

Stevie Lowery

Stevie Lowery, editor and publisher of The Lebanon Enterprise, will receive the 2018 Al Smith Award for public service through community journalism by a Kentuckian. The award is co-sponsored by the University of Kentucky’s Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and the Bluegrass Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Following Lowery’s acceptance remarks, the audience will hear from Mary Berry, executive director of The Berry Center in New Castle, which continues the agricultural work of the late John Berry Sr. and his sons Wendell Berry and the late John Berry Jr., all of them staunch advocates for small farmers and land-conserving economies.

The Al Smith Award is named for Albert P. Smith Jr., the founding producer-host of KET’s “Comment on Kentucky,” who was federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission and published newspapers in rural Kentucky and Tennessee. He was the driving force for creation of the Institute, headed its advisory board and is chair emeritus. He will also speak at the dinner.

Mary Berry and her brother, Den Berry, lived with their parents, Wendell and Tanya Berry, at Lanes Landing Farm near Port Royal for most of her childhood. After graduation from the University of Kentucky, she farmed for a living in Henry County, first with dairy and tobacco, then diversifying to organic vegetables, pastured poultry and grass-fed beef. She is married to Trimble County farmer Steve Smith, who started Kentucky’s first community-supported agriculture enterprise. If daughters Katie Johnson, Virginia Aguilar and Tanya Smith stay in Henry County, they will be the ninth generation of their family to live and farm there.

Berry speaks all over the country as a proponent of “agriculture of the middle,” in defense of small farmers, with the hope of restoring a culture and an economy that has been lost in rural America.

The Al Smith Awards Dinner is an annual fund-raiser for the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and the Bluegrass SPJ chapter, which conceived the Smith Award. But it is also “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,” Cross said.

The dinner will also recognize recipients of the SPJ chapter’s student scholarships and Oregon editor-publisher Les Zaitz, winner of the Institute’s 2018 Tom and Pat Gish Award for courage, tenacity and integrity in rural journalism. Cross will present that award to Zaitz in Oregon in July. The dinner will be held at the Embassy Suites on Newtown Pike, near Interstates 75/64 in Lexington. For more information, contact Al Cross at 859-257-3744 or al.cross@uky.edu; or SPJ Bluegrass Chapter President Tom Eblen at teblen@herald-leader.com.

The Al Smith Awards Dinner is an annual fund-raiser for the Institute and the SPJ chapter, which conceived the Smith Award. But it is also “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,” Cross said.

The dinner will also recognize recipients of the SPJ chapter’s student scholarships and Oregon editor-publisher Les Zaitz, winner of the Institute’s 2018 Tom and Pat Gish Award for courage, tenacity and integrity in rural journalism. Cross presented that award to Zaitz in Oregon in July.

The Al Smith Awards dinner will be held at the Embassy Suites on Newtown Pike in Lexington. Watch for information in the next week or so on making reservations for the October 18 dinner.

For more information, contact Al Cross at 859-257-3744 or al.cross@uky.edu; or SPJ Bluegrass Chapter President Tom Eblen at teblen@herald-leader.com. Details are available on the Institute’s website, www.RuralJournalism.org

  • She joins a host of KPA Board members and Past Presidents who have received the Al Smith Award, including Al Smith, John Nelson, Max Heath, Ryan Craig and Larry Craig, Past Presidents; and Sharon Burton, a KPA Board member.

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