By Casey Parker-Bell
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
Robert Trapp Jr., publisher of the Rio Grande Sun in Española, N.M., accepted the Tom and Pat Gish Award for courage, integrity and tenacity in rural journalism from the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, publisher of The Rural Blog.
Carl West, former editor of The State Journal in Frankfort,
Ky., and founder of the Kentucky Book Fair Committee, accepted the Al Smith
Award for public service through community journalism by a Kentuckian. The
Institute and the Bluegrass Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists
co-sponsor the award.
Two community journalism giants received awards for their service Thursday night and showed their gratitude while focusing on how journalists can improve their craft.
The award was given to the Trapp family, recognizing the work of his parents, Robert and Ruth Trapp, who started the Sun in 1956 with a partner they later bought out. The weekly paper and the elder Trapp have received many awards, and Institute Director Al Cross said the Gish Award for them was overdue.
The award is named for the couple who published The Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg, Ky., for more than 50 years and won national recognition for their courage, integrity and tenacity as they practiced a straightforward style of journalism in the face of opposition from powerful interests.
The Eagle and the Sun have exchanged papers for many years, and members of the Gish family joined Trapp at his table at the Marriott Griffin Gate Resort in Lexington, Ky.
An emotional Trapp was clearly thankful for the award. He explained that his parents had put reporting the truth over advertising dollars, and he pointedly described what he believes will improve journalism at all levels: quality reporting on issues that are important to the community. “That’s what we should be doing,” he said. “Following the stories that affect our communities and trying to improve our communities by doing that.”
In his speech, Trapp called community newspapers “the last bastion of truth in reporting.” Here's a video of the award presentation and his acceptance speech:
|Carl West accepts the Al Smith Award|
West also emphasized the importance of newspapers in his speech. “Newspapers, journalism, it’s a community trust. A public trust,” he said. He highlighted how important accuracy and fairness are to journalists, how downsizing is changing newsrooms (including the one where he remains editor emeritus) and how the people running newspapers should view their service to the public.
“Newspapers aren’t a bank. You have to make money to own one and run it. Sure, but you’re not going to get rich,” he said. “If you are going at it that way, you’re in the wrong business.”
West also spoke about the Kentucky Book Fair and how it has helped fund public libraries in small communities with limited financial resources and has touched thousands of book lovers.
The Al Smith Award is named for the co-founder of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, who owned weekly newspapers in Kentucky and Tennessee and was the founding host of KET’s “Comment on Kentucky.” He also spoke at the dinner.
Nominations for next year's awards will be accepted until April 1, 2016.