The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues seeks nominations by May 15, 2017, for this year’s Tom and Pat Gish Award for courage, tenacity and integrity in rural journalism.
The award is named for Tom and Pat Gish,who published The Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg, Ky., for more than 51 years. They died in 2008 and 2014, respectively, and their son Ben is now publisher. The Gishes and the Eagle have withstood advertiser boycotts, business competition, declining population, personal attacks, and even the burning of their office to give their readers the kind of journalism often lacking in rural areas. The family won the 2010 Eugene Cervi Award from the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, which honors the maxim “good journalism begets good government,” and Tom and Pat Gish were the first winners of the award named for them.
Other winners of the Gish award have been:
2007: The Ezzell family of The Canadian Record in Canadian, Texas
2008: The late Stanley Dearman of The Neshoba Democrat in Philadelphia, Miss., and his successor as publisher, James E. Prince III
2010: Samantha Swindler, now of The (Portland) Oregonian, for her work as editor of the Corbin, Ky., Times-Tribune and managing editor of the Jacksonville (Texas) Daily Progress
2011: Stanley Nelson and the Concordia Sentinel of Ferriday, Louisiana
2012, Jonathan and Susan Austin of the Yancey County News in Burnsville, N.C.
2014: The late Landon Wills of the McLean County News in Calhoun, Ky.
2015: The Trapp family of the Rio Grande Sun in Española, N.M.
2016: Ivan Foley of the Platte County Landmark in Platte City, Mo.
All showed courage, tenacity and integrity in pursuing difficult stories.
Laurie Ezzell Brown has continued the courageous journalism of her father Ben Ezzell, who established the Record’s reputation for gutsy editorials, especially in national political controversies; the weekly paper continues to do investigative journalism about politicians and corporations.
The Neshoba Democrat was recognized for its leadership on civil rights and reconciliation over the last four decades, highlighted by the publishers’ efforts to bring to justice all the killers of three civil-rights workers who were murdered in Neshoba County in July 1964. Stan Dearman died this year at 84.
At two small dailies, Samantha Swindler did stories on local corruption, and the latter package, done despite threats to her personal safety and that of her reporter, was key to the indictment and imprisonment of the local sheriff.
Stanley Nelson, with the support of the weekly Sentinel’s owners, investigated an unsolved murder from the civil-rights era, writing a series of stories despite objections from some readers, and named and interviewed a living suspect.
The Austins showed courage in starting a second weekly newspaper in a one-paper town, then uncovered vote fraud by the county sheriff’s department. The chief deputy resigned and pleaded guilty to failing to discharge his duties.
Landon Wills won national notice for his editorial leadership that included successful community development projects, but his weekly cut against the local political grain by taking courageous stands in state and national politics.
The Trapp family has published a crusading weekly for more than 60 years, fighting for open and honest government, often drawing rocks thrown through their windows, and against the drug abuse plaguing Rio Arriba County.
Ivan Foley has pushed accountability journalism and open government in the face of competition, intimidation and retribution. He endorses candidates in local elections, a rarity in weekly newspapers.
The Institute seeks nominations that measure up, at least in major respects, to the records of previous winners. Nominators should send detailed letters to 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. Documentation does not have to accompany the nomination, but is helpful in choosing finalists, and additional documentation may be requested or required. Generally, the more documentation, the better.
Questions may be directed to Cross at 859-257-3744 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Letters should be postmarked by May 10 and received by May 15 at:
Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues
122 Grehan Journalism Building, University of Kentucky
Lexington KY 40506-0042