Samantha Swindler, then the managing editor of the daily Times-Tribune in Corbin, Kentucky, had been spearheading an investigation of the local sheriff when a Kentucky state trooper came to her office and told her, "You really need to be careful." ...
Another day, her reporter on the story, Adam Sulfridge, received phone calls from three different law enforcement officers telling him to leave his house because of a credible death threat.
Both Swindler and Sulfridge bought pistols "because, quite frankly, I thought my reporting might get me killed," Swindler wrote in an article for Nieman Reports. She never had to use hers, but Sulfridge -- who lived and reported in the county seat, Williamsburg, in closer proximity to the sheriff -- had his pistol close at hand when two men drove to his house on a dead-end street. In her article, Swindler describes the driver as a "man we suspected as part of a group of drug dealers associated with the sheriff."
"That was the only time I actually had to pull my gun," Sulfridge recalls. The men drove away, and a week later the driver was arrested on federal drug charges.
But Swindler and Sulfridge didn't back down. They kept asking tough questions, the paper kept running stories, and in November the Whitley County sheriff, Lawrence Hodge, was indicted and arrested on 21 counts of evidence tampering and abuse of public trust.
April 05, 2011
Community Journalism: Courage and tenacity
American Journalism Review has an extensive piece on how the Times-Tribune in Corbin, Ky., won the Gish award given by Al Cross and the Instituted for Rural Journalism and Community Issues this past Friday: