June 10, 2022

University help for community journalism among topics at weekly editors' conference in Kentucky June 20-23

By Al Cross
Director and professor, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky

Editorial critique session at an ISWNE conference
The annual conference of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, July 20-23 at the University of Kentucky, will have programs on university help for community newspapers, national politics becoming local, dealing with the evils of social media, new business models for weeklies, governments’ role in the news business, a visit from a news-media leader from Mongolia, newspapers’ and libraries’ common interests, and the hallmark of the conference: editors' critiques of other members' editorials and editorial pages.

Those sessions are on the schedule for Friday and Saturday, July 22 and 23. As usual, the professional-development programming will be preceded by two days of tours in the area; the itinerary includes a historic newspaper, an iconic horse farm, a bourbon distillery, and a community that is headquarters to a big cannabis company and for 14 years was home to a newspaper created by UK students and their professor (this writer). For a detailed schedule, click here.

Attendees will stay in a university dormitory, and private rooms are available. The conference fee is $600 per person, and there's a three-day, $300 option. ISWNE membership is $50 a year. The registration form is here. The deadline is Wednesday, June 15. Questions? Email al.cross@uky.edu.

Friday’s opening session will examine the common interests of newspapers and public libraries. “Libraries and newspapers share the front lines in the battle for intellectual freedom,” says AnnaMarie Cornett, chief of staff at the Lexington Public Library, who will join with other leaders of the library to talk about their approaches to neutrality and challenged materials, and how libraries and newspapers can work together in the fight against censorship.

Next up will be a session on navigating the increasingly contentious political landscape. My informal survey of ISWNE members last year found that editors are becoming more cautious because the national divisiveness has made local public discourse more contentious, and I have heard likewise from other editors. I’ll present what I have heard, then lead a group discussion so we can learn more and help guide paths forward.

Allison Frisch of Ithaca College and Gina Gayle of Emerson College will discuss their research paper about the ways higher-education journalism programs can help community newspapers. They found that such partnerships can increase civic engagement, create new local media channels, and strengthen civic literacy, engagement, and democracy. They also can give students real-world experience covering a wide range of issues, and help newspapers in need of more resources.

After lunch and ISWNE's annual Associated Press Stylebook quiz, we will have a discussion with Bradley Martin, editor and publisher of the Hickman County Times in Centerville, Tenn., about dealing with the evils of social media, and when it’s necessary to dip into the cesspool. Brad has an object example of a social media mess that had a serious impact on a school, a student and his family. I’ll be you have some examples to discuss, too.

Should government help the news media, and if so, how? Canada has taken steps to help newspapers that would be off-limits in the U.S., where the newspaper industry is fighting battles in Congress and state legislatures. Gordon Cameron, group managing editor of Hamilton Community News in Ontario, will give a report from Canada, where government help hasn’t set well with some rural editors. I will discuss battles in the states over public-notice advertising, and efforts in Congress to help news media recover some of the revenue they have lost to digital platforms – efforts that are better suited to community papers than they were at the start, but U.S. editors and publishers are still debating what role government should play in sustaining local journalism. I’ll also discuss newspapers’ biggest victory in Congress lately, the great expansion of the ability to send sample copies to non-subscribers in their home counties.

What are the ethics of seeking public-notice ads and other support for local journalism from public officials whom you may have to cover and comment on? That will be the point of departure for a roundtable session about tough ethical calls, often a challenge in rural communities.

To wrap up Friday's discussions, we will have a session looking at new business models for community newspapers, drawing in part on our recent National Summit on Journalism in Rural America, where speakers talked about taking their newspapers into nonprofit status, working with a local community foundation to put philanthropy into their business model, and using e-newsletters and membership models to raise more revenue from readers. (For another Summit story, on the state of rural journalism, click here.)

On Saturday, after the editorial critiques, we plan to hear from a very special visitor: Enkhbat Tsend, chairman of the Press Institute of Mongolia and CEO of Control Media LLC. Mongolia ranks 90th on the World Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders, but that is higher than most nations near it. The index says Mongolia “broadly respects the principles of freedom and media pluralism, though its regulation still lacks basic legal protection for the confidentiality of sources and imperfect defamation laws encourage abusive lawsuits against journalists, stirring self-censorship.”

So, the conference will reach from your campus to your county courthouse and city hall to state legislatures and Congress and to other nations, just as an ISWNE conference should do. Please join us.

June 09, 2022

Some university professors and journalism programs are helping rural newspapers; one says they are way overdue

One in a series of reports on the National Summit on Journalism in Rural America, held June 3-4 by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues and the College of Communication and Information at the University of Kentucky. Summit sessions can be viewed on YouTube.

As more higher-education journalism programs try to serve community journalism, one professor who started a newspaper with her students, is doing hands-on research and testing a new business model at two weekly papers says it's way overdue.

Teri Finneman
The state of journalism and the news business "is a colossal failure of higher education," Teri Finneman, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Kansas, said at the National Summit on Journalism in Rural America Saturday afternoon.

"Where the hell has the ivory tower been the last 20 years?" Finneman asked. "We are the ones who should have been leading the research, working with the industry, to avoid this mess that we are in right now. . . . It is time for the ivory tower to step up and support our counterparts in the industry."

Finneman is a researcher of journalism history, but she has launched into doing journalism with her students, as publisher of the Eudora Times in a small town nine miles from her journalism school, which will host "News Desert U." Oct 21-22 for journalism educators to address the crisis. "It is time for universities to step up, finally, and do something about this," she said.

This summer, Finneman is testing a new business model for community papers at Harvey County Now in Newton, Kan., and the Hillsboro Free Press, which will get $10,000 to participate. The model aims to get more revenue from the audience with e-newsletters, events and two tiers of memberships. Kansas Publishing Ventures, which owns the papers, is keeping detailed minutes of its weekly meetings on the project, to help develop an information packet for community papers across the nation, Finneman said.

The model is based on surveys that Finneman and other researches did in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas, which found that newspaper readers are much more willing to support their papers with money beyond subscriptions that newspaper publishers think they are. In North Dakota, the only state where she has released her results, 40 percent said they were likely or very likely to donate.

Finneman said she and her colleagues were "taken aback" at the attitude of publishers in focus groups who felt that asking for voluntary support would be admitting failure or showing personal weakness. "They very much saw themselves as a business, as opposed to an unreplaceable civic community organization that a newspaper is," while "leaving free money on the table."

She said publishers cited the lack of time and resources for business-model experimentation, but "Overall, there was very much this underlying fear, the fear of doing something different."

M. Clay Carey
In a session on what sort of research journalism schools could do to help rural news outlets, Clay Carey of Samford University in Alabama said research projects need to have social value, not just economic and journalistic value. "We all know the future of rural news outlets is tied to the future of rural places," he said, so "stories of places that are struggling" could he helpful.

The summit's "research question" was "How can rural communities sustain local journalism that supports local democracy?" Carey said we need research that is centered on the idea of democratic practice, and the essential role of agency: the ability to act on information. He said research has focused on information at the expense of focus on agency, which many people feel they don't have, and suggested more specific research questions" How can journalistic organizations equip people to be civically engaged? How can they encourage and empower them? Perhaps by "inviting people to participate in sharing their story," he said.

More broadly, he said universities should ask, "How can news organizations facilitate collaboration that creates a sense of community and creates positive change?" and think about facilitating collaboration among local newspapers, national and regional organizations, and local entities such as libraries. He said universities can help create frameworks, and reduce risk and risk aversion. And all the while, do research that is "accessible to people outside the academy. . . . It's easy for research to be an extractive industry, in the same way that journalism can be an extractive industry."

Bill Reader
Bill Reader of Ohio University, a longtime community journalism scholar, said "The academy has not been a friend of the cause, overall," but "Industry leaders have ignored the research of the past, and they are ignoring the research of the present." He said research needs to take on the knowledge gap between "haves and have-nots" in rural communities. "Helping people become full-fledged members of the community builds support for the newspaper, long-haul."

Beyond research, some university journalism programs are trying to help individual papers and the industry at large. University of Georgia students staff The Oglethorpe Echo, a nearby paper that was going to close until retired chain publisher Dink NeSmith created a nonprofit and got the university involved (he described the process in the first Saturday afternoon session); and West Virginia University has the NewStart program to train the next generation of community newspaper owners. Its director, Jim Iovino, reported that the University of Texas is sending someone to see how it can emulate the effort. In both states, newspaper associations asked universities for help because newspaper owners could not find acceptable buyers for their papers.

Further reports on the National Summit on Journalism in Rural America will appear later on The Rural Blog. Previous articles were on the state of rural journalism the Summit-driven effort for sustainability in rural journalism and nonprofit models.

June 02, 2022

National Summit on Journalism in Rural America This Week

The National Summit on Journalism in Rural America is this Friday and Saturday (June 3-4).

It will be livestreamed. Details at https://www.nna.org/join-the-national-summit-on-journalism-in-rural-america-on-youtube-june-3-4

Friday, June 3 | 1:15-5 p.m. 
  • The state of America’s community newspapers and their journalism
  • Reports from leaders of the community newspaper industry
  • Putting local philanthropy in your business model
  • Converting your newspaper(s) to nonprofit status
Saturday, June 4 | Starting at 9 a.m. 

  • Good journalism is good business, but how do we make people want local news? 
  • How two community newspapers are adapting to change
  • Innovation at other community newspapers
  • National funders and supporters on help for rural journalism
  • A university-nonprofit team saves a weekly paper
  • New business models for community newspapers, and a plan to test one
  •  What other research is needed to help community journalism? 

May 25, 2022

Using census data, a goldmine fior community journalists

 Census data has a wealth of potential stories for community journalists. And with the onlinevtools, it's one of the easiest data sources to use.

Here are some tips on how to dig in.


May 19, 2022

Mapping tool for small newsrooms

 From the Reynolds Journalism Institute, details of mapping tool Flourish, which may be especially useful for small newsrooms.


February 28, 2022

Local news: Some sobering statistics

 CJR looks at the shrinkage in local newsrooms not just from the view of simply percentage decline in overall numbers but in light of some other interesting comparisons.


February 21, 2022

Gen Z and news

 Some interesting insights into Gen Z and how they want their news.


February 18, 2022

AEJMC 2022: Community Journalism Paper Call (Deadline April 1)

The Community Journalism Interest Group (ComJIG) invites scholarly submissions from faculty and graduate students for its competitive paper and poster sessions to be presented at the 2022 AEJMC national conference in Detroit, Michigan, USA.

In addition to the Top Faculty ($100 and plaque) and Top Graduate Student ($150 and plaque) paper awards, ComJIG has a special call and $150/plaque prize for the top graduate student paper with a niche focus on social justice in context of community journalism. All papers should apply or advance theory and/or professional practice in community/local journalism and can use a variety of methods and approaches. All papers up for the graduate student awards cannot be co-authored by a faculty member – indicate in your submission if you want to be considered for it. The deadline for paper submissions is April 1, 2022.

The Scope: Community journalism is in the midst of a paradigm shift in both research and practice. New technologies, an increase in the digital divide, the ongoing shift from print to digital, the encroachment of a global community on local reporting, and the increasing distrust of mainstream news outlets and its effects on audience perceptions of hyperlocal news, to name a few, represent a moving target for community reporting.

The concept of community has also expanded to include well more than just a group defined by characteristics of physical proximity. In the digital age, communities also are defined by the strength of social relationships among individuals based largely on the interests, beliefs, and ideologies that bring them together, irrespective of their geographic location. ComJIG encourages submissions that address these issues as well as this diversity within and about communities in whatever forms they take. It also encourages submissions on the role(s) journalism plays in reporting as well as informing these communities. In addition, it encourages submissions that provide action-oriented insight into effects, trends, and issues facing community journalism outlets that would be of use to industry practitioners. We also encourage research that looks at community journalism (or even community itself) within a broad ideology.

Research topics may include, but are not restricted to:

· Social justice at the community level – coverage, influence, responsibility, etc.

· How and if news organizations—print and digital-- fulfill a community’s critical information needs

· How news organizations build audiences within their communities with or without use of digital technologies

· How community newspapers thrive or struggle to survive in present times and changes, if any, in community journalistic practices in the digital age

· How journalism entrepreneurs juggle advertising with community news reporting

· The effects of the closure of community news outlets—print and online – on communities, specifically those in news deserts or in relation to the digital divide

· How news organizations create and engage with communities through innovative practices

· Conceptual ideas that push our understanding of community in new directions

· Conceptual ideas that explore the meaning and interpretation of “local news” in a global era

The Awards: ComJIG awards top papers in the faculty and grad student categories. The authors of these papers will be invited to publish their manuscripts to ComJIG’s official, peer-reviewed publication, Community Journalism. Others also are encouraged to send their work to the journal for consideration. In addition, and new this year, an award will be given to the top graduate student paper focused on this year’s niche call – social justice and community reporting.

The Submission guidelines:

Format: Paper submissions should include a 100 to 150-word abstract and should not exceed 8000 words, including references, tables and notes. All papers should conform to APA style, Sixth edition. Papers must be typed in 12-point font using Times New Roman and paper text must be double-line spaced with 1-inch margins around each page. The pages should be continuously numbered. References must be provided. Tables or figures can be included within or at the end of the paper. An author can submit more than one paper to ComJIG but no more than two manuscripts. All submissions will be subjected to a blind peer review.

Author Identification: All authors and co-authors should include their information when registering on the online system. It is the author’s responsibility to ensure that no identifying information is included anywhere in the paper or the properties section of the PDF document or it will be disqualified from the conference. Thus, authors are encouraged to submit early to fully check their submissions in the system for self-identifying information and any other technical glitches so they can resubmit their manuscripts, if necessary, before the system closes on deadline. Please follow the directions provided in “submitting a clean paper” section under the uniform paper call on the AEJMC website.

Student Submissions: Graduate students are encouraged to submit papers to the group. Student authors should clearly mark their papers by including the phrase “STUDENT SUBMISSION” on the title page to be considered for the student paper competition. These papers should be authored by students only and not include any faculty co-authors.

Uploading Manuscripts: The papers should be submitted to ComJIG via a link on the AEJMC website. Please see the AEJMC’s paper competition uniform call for more information.

Presentation Requirement: For the manuscript to be considered for presentation in the panel or poster session at the conference, at least one of the authors must attend in person to talk about the research. An exception may be made for papers with ONLY student authors; if the graduate students are unable to attend, then they must arrange for someone else to present the research on their behalf.

Questions, Concerns, Clarifications? Please contact ComJIG Research Committee Chair Aaron Atkins, assistant professor of communication, digital media, and journalism at Weber State University, datkins@weber.edu

December 02, 2021

AEJMC SE Colloquium Deadline Dec 18

 A reminder that the paper submission deadline for the AEJMC Southeast Colloquium is just a few days away.


October 20, 2021

Akron's Devil Strip local news co-op shuts down unexpectedly

It's unclear how a news co-op could shut down suddenly and unilaterally.

But the sudden demise of Akron's Devil Strip may be an important learning moment as the push to find new community news business models continues.


October 18, 2021

Call for Contributors: Issues Facing Contemporary American Journalism: History, Context, and Perspectives

There is currently a call for book chapters and essays for the upcoming book Issues Facing Contemporary American Journalism: History, Context, and Perspectives, in development with Routledge in the Journalism Insights series with an anticipated publication in 2023. 

From primary author and editor Dr. Hans Schmidt, here's the call information: 

Call for Book Chapters and Essays: Issues Facing Contemporary American Journalism: History, Context, and Perspectives


Proposal Submission Deadline: December 1, 2021 (early submissions appreciated)

Chapters Due: May 1, 2022


I am inviting chapter and essay proposals for the book Issues Facing Contemporary American Journalism: History, Context, and Perspectives being developed for publication by Routledge in the Journalism Insights book series (early 2023 publication anticipated).


Contributions could take two forms.


Chapter Submissions: Chapter submissions would address a historical background of the chapter topic, as well as historical and contemporary issues, challenge, and context related to this topic. Completed chapters should be 3500-4500 words in length.


Essay Submissions: Essay submissions would address tangential perspectives, first-person experiences, or topics related to each primary chapter. Completed essays should be 1200-2000 words in length.


Chapters topics include, but are not limited to, the following.


 A Free Press: A Confusing History and Uncertain Future (U.S. focus)

 A Free Press: A Confusing History and Uncertain Future (International focus)

 Journalistic Objectivity: A Gold Standard or Myth?

 The Challenge of War and Conflict Reporting

 Reporting on Terrorism and the War on Terror

 The Challenges of Pandemic Reporting in an Era of Hyperpartisanship

 Environmental Reporting and the Problem of Mis(Dis)information

 The Return of Fake News

 Local News in Crisis

 Can Journalism Survive Social Media?

 Enduring Inequities in Journalism: Gender in Sports and News

 Covering Activist Athletes

 Reporting on Social Justice Movements

 Reporting on Crime and Criminal Justice: Challenges and Biases

 Citizen Journalism: A New Approach?

 Moving Forward: Directions for a Sustainable Model for Journalism


Chapter/essay proposals should include:

(1) Author credentials

(2) Identify if proposal is for a chapter (3500-4500 words) or supplementary essay (1200-2000 words)

(3) Topic (Please select a topic from the list above, or propose another topic.)

(4) A 200-300 word (approximately) description of what you plan to develop in either the chapter or essay.


For more information, or to submit a chapter or essay proposal, please email the primary author and editor, Dr. Hans Schmidt (hcs10@psu.edu). The deadline for chapter and essay proposals is December 1, 2021. Early proposals are appreciated and will be reviewed as soon as they are received. The deadline for chapter and essay submissions is May 1, 2022.

October 17, 2021

Survival of local news: The view from on the ground

The latest from the Post and Courier's excellent "Uncovered" series documenting how corruption flourishes when local news withers. This is an on-the-ground look at the perilous situation in Union, SC, known nationally for the Susan Smith child drowning case.

The once-daily folded, a victim of economic pressures that became too intense with coronavirus, and now two former employees who started a competing weekly wonder how it will survive.


(Warning: possible paywall.)

The story also references Newstart, a program at the University of West Virginia to encourage people to buy local papers and train them how to run them.

October 13, 2021

Missouri publishers return papers to local ownership as Gannett sheds titles

Gannett is shedding newspapers across the country after its merger with GateHouse Media. It has shed 12 in Missouri, and local publishers are returning them to local ownership.

One of them is Trevor Vernon, owner of Vernon Communicatons:

The Lake Sun-Leader, which also publishes magazines and specialty publications about recreation and real estate at the Lake of the Ozarks, will operate with three reporters and an editor, Vernon said.

That means he’s hiring.

While Vernon is not looking to add to his chain, he said he would like to see more community newspapers returned to local ownership.

“I hope it is a national trend,” he said. “I believe that Gannett has done the same thing in Kansas. I really believe there is a need for local journalists to do local journalism.

 From the Missouri Independent:


ISWNE/Huck Boyd Competition Call for Proposals

The International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE) is looking for paper proposals for its ISWNE/Huck Boyd Competition. Proposals should provide insight and guidance on issues and/or everyday problems within community newspapers, particularly at publications with less than 10,000 circulation. 

Here's a link to more information, including a PDF download of the competition submission requirements. Deadline to submit is Nov. 2. The ISWNE conference is July 20-24, 2022 in Lexington, Kentucky. 

October 09, 2021

Build reader engagement with current resources -- RJI

 Reynolds Journalism Institute has a "how we do it" piece from fellow Kate Abbey-Lambetz detailing how Detour Detroit gets reader engagement.

"[W]e also have focused on engagement as an ongoing, mission-driven practice that touches all parts of our newsroom and drives our journalism." ...

"Cultivating a meaningful engagement practice (including, but beyond, social media) can feel like a tall order for a small outlet stretched for resources and time. But it can pay its own dividends, helping you better understand and meet readers’ needs; produce more impactful journalism; grow your audience, and increase reader loyalty and support. With a small team and no dedicated engagement staffer, no paid tools and an online-only presence, here’s how we do it."


Helping smaller newsrooms meet photo and video needs

 From Reynolds Fellow Aaron Eaton:

Over the next month, I would love to speak with as many smaller local newsrooms as possible to gain more insight into how to build a platform that can serve their needs in regards to:

  • Locating local  independent visual journalists for assignments.
  • Creating a streamlined process to pay for and acquire photo and video content from local journalists.
  • Building a community of smaller newsrooms to strengthen local journalism.


October 08, 2021

When a newspaper chain lets a community's small daily newspaper deteriorate

From The Rural Blog

All across America, small newspapers are shriveling, mainly because digital media have taken much of their advertising base. Quantifying that on a national scale would be very difficult; the U.S. has more than 6,000 newspapers, most of them small. But a story about one, The Hawk Eye of Burlington, Iowa, is emblematic of the problem, which is worst for small daily papers bearing a burden of debt incurred by hedge-fund buyers like GateHouse Media, which took over Gannett Co. and its name.

Elaine Godfrey, who grew up near the Mississippi River town of 24,000, writes for The Atlantic about The Hawk Eye under the new Gannett: "Its staff, now down to three overstretched news reporters, still produces a print edition six days a week. But the paper is dying. Its pages are smaller than they used to be, and there are fewer of them. Even so, wide margins and large fonts are used to fill space. The paper is laid out by a remote design team and printed 100 miles away in Peoria, Illinois; if a reader doesn’t get her paper in the morning, she is instructed to dial a number that will connect her to a call center in the Philippines. Obituaries used to be free; now, when your uncle dies, you have to pay to publish a write-up. These days, most of The Hawk Eye’s articles are ripped from other Gannett-owned Iowa publications, such as The Des Moines Register and the Ames Tribune, written for a readership three hours away. The opinion section, once an arena for local columnists and letter writers to spar over the merits and morals of riverboat gambling and railroad jobs moving to Topeka, is dominated by syndicated national columnists."

Using the recently created Burlington Breaking News Facebook page to solicit comments, Godfrey got dozens: "Readers noticed the paper’s sloppiness first—how there seemed to be twice as many typos as before, and how sometimes the articles would end mid-sentence instead of continuing after the jump. The newspaper’s remaining reporters are overworked; there are local stories they’d like to tell but don’t have the bandwidth to cover. The Hawk Eye’s current staff is facing the impossible task of keeping a historic newspaper alive while its owner is attempting to squeeze it dry."

Social-media sites that pop up when a newspaper withers "can be a useful resource, and a good source of community jokes and gossip. But speculation and rumor run rampant" on the Facebook page, Godfrey writes. "When a member hears something that sounds like gunshots nearby, she’ll post about it, and others will offer theories about the source. Once, I read a thread about an elementary-school principal suddenly skipping town. Some thought he might have behaved inappropriately with a student; one person said he’d been involved with a student’s mother; another swore they’d seen security-camera footage of the principal slashing tires in a parking lot at night. I checked The Hawk Eye and other outlets, but I couldn’t find verification of any of those stories."

The guessing is hard for Dale Alison, former Hawk Eye editor, to watch. "He often interjects in the comments to correct false information. Sometimes he posts news himself. . . .  People want to know what’s going on, Alison told me; they just don’t know how to find the answer, whom to call, where to look. That’s what reporters are for."

Godfrey touches on another national trend seen all over the country: "In the absence of local coverage, all news becomes national news: Instead of reading about local policy decisions, people read about the blacklisting of Dr. Seuss books. Instead of learning about their own local candidates, they consume angry takes about Marjorie Taylor Greene," the radical Republican congresswoman from Georgia.

And she senses an even more disturbing trend, relayed by Mayor Jon Billups, who was fired as The Hawk Eye's circulation director in 2017: "Since the purchase of the paper, he’s noticed a growing negative self-image among residents, he told me. Fewer people see Burlington as a nice place to live; they seem to like their neighbors less. 'We’re struggling with not having [this] iconic thing.' As mayor, he helped start a newsletter to keep residents updated on city projects. 'It’s a matter of time before our local paper does not exist.'"

Godfrey reflects, "When people lament the decline of small newspapers, they tend to emphasize the most important stories that will go uncovered: political corruption, school-board scandals, zoning-board hearings, police misconduct. They are right to worry about that. But often overlooked are the more quotidian stories, the ones that disappear first when a paper loses resources: stories about the annual Teddy Bear Picnic at Crapo Park, the town-hall meeting about the new swimming-pool design, and the tractor games during the Denmark Heritage Days. These stories are the connective tissue of a community; they introduce people to their neighbors, and they encourage readers to listen to and empathize with one another. When that tissue disintegrates, something vital rots away. We don’t often stop to ponder the way that a newspaper’s collapse makes people feel: less connected, more alone. As local news crumbles, so does our tether to one another."

New Tow Center report paints detailed, sometimes troubling, picture of community journalism

Tow Center report based on 2020 survey and compared with similar in 2016. Newspaper centered.

[D]espite seeing potential for the industry, 61 percent of respondents in 2020 hold a “slightly negative” or “very negative” opinion about the prospects for the future of small-market newspapers. Four years ago, the situation (to our surprise) was reversed, with 61 percent of 2016’s sample being “very positive” or “slightly positive” about the future of their industry.

October 04, 2021

Call for Proposals: ISWNE/Huck Boyd "Strengthening Community News" research competition


The International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE) and the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media at Kansas State University are seeking proposals for papers that provide insight and guidance on general issues and/or everyday problems that confront community newspapers and their newsrooms, with particular reference to weekly general-interest publications with circulations under 10,000.

This competition is an extension of the Center’s former “Newspapers and Community-Building Symposium,” co-sponsored for 20 years by the National Newspaper Association (NNA) and its foundation. The competition’s ultimate goal is to engage academicians and community newspaper journalists in productive “conversations about community journalism.”

Proposals will first be peer-reviewed by faculty with expertise in community journalism.  Final selection of the papers to be written will be made by a panel of working and retired community journalists who will evaluate the proposals on the basis of their potential value to newsrooms.

Completed papers will undergo a final ­academic peer review prior to publication in an issue of ISWNE’s Grassroots Editor. The schedule has been set up to ensure publication of all accepted papers by January 2023 or sooner.

Proposals from graduate students are especially encouraged, as are proposals with an international focus, or reflecting an international perspective on community papers’ newsrooms.

One paper will be selected by the community journalists panel for presentation at the 2022 ISWNE conference scheduled July 20-24 in Lexington, KY.  ISWNE and the ISWNE Foundation will provide the author with a complimentary conference registration as well as a partial subsidy for travel. The paper’s author will be expected to make whatever arrangements are necessary to attend this conference.

A second place paper will also be selected and the authors of both top papers will receive complimentary one-year memberships in ISWNE. 

March 20, 2021

Al Smith, who co-founded Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues after weekly-newspaper publishing career, dies at 94

Albert P. Smith Jr.
Al Smith, who published weekly newspapers in Kentucky and Tennessee and co-founded the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues at the University of Kentucky, died Friday, March 19 at home in Sarasota, Florida. He was 94.

From 1974 to 2007, Smith was the host and producer of Kentucky Educational Television’s “Comment on Kentucky,” the longest running public-affairs show on a PBS affiliate, taking leave in 1980-82 to serve as federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission for Presidents Carter and Reagan.

After selling his newspapers in 1985, Smith broadened his civic work. He and his friend Rudy Abramson, who died in 2008, thought up the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues in the late 1990s, and he persuaded his onetime New Orleans intern, Hodding Carter III, to take it past the study stage with a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which Carter headed. He was chair emeritus of the institute’s Advisory Board. He was a charter member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame and a fellow of the national Society of Professional Journalists and former president of the Kentucky Press Association, a role in which he helped pass the state's main open-government laws.

Smith’s greatest legacy was the many people he helped along the way. He mentored younger journalists and others who crossed his path. He was a kind, generous man and a wonderful (if long-winded) storyteller, with a Shakespearean grasp of political foible and triumph. His curiosity was more than a journalist’s quest for a story; it was a wider curiosity that reflected his love for humanity and its condition. That quality brought him a wide circle of friends from all walks of life. That is reflected in this sidebar of remembrances and tributes on The Rural Blog, an Institute publication.

Two statewide awards are named for him. One is given by the rural-journalism institute and the Bluegrass SPJ Chapter for public service through community journalism (he was its first recipient); the other is a $7,500 award from the Kentucky Arts Commission, which he once chaired, to a Kentucky artist who has achieved a high level of excellence and creativity.

Survivors include his beloved wife of almost 54 years, Martha Helen Smith; his children, Catherine McCarty (William) of Birmingham, Ala.; Lewis Carter Hancock of Louisville and Virginia Major (William) of West Hartford, Conn.; an “adopted” son, Huaming Gu of Shanghai, China; and his sister, Robin Burrow, of Abilene, Texas. He is also survived by five grandchildren, Evan and Connor (Ikue) McCarty, Lauren Hancock, and Susannah and Ava Major; and numerous cousins.

A memorial service will be held at a later date. The family suggests instead that memorial contributions may be made in Al’s honor to the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, 343 S. Martin Luther King Blvd., #206 BLD, Lexington KY 40506-0012, and to The Hope Center.

December 30, 2020

Tim Crews, late California editor-publisher, wins Tom and Pat Gish Award for courage, integrity and tenacity in rural journalism

Tim Crews of the Sacramento Valley Mirror held up a toothbrush outside a county jail after serving five days in 2000 for refusing to give up an anonymous source. (Photo by Rich Pedroncelli, The Associated Press)

Tim Crews, a rural editor-publisher who fought for open government in California and went to jail to protect his sources, is the winner of the 2020 Tom and Pat Gish Award from the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues (publisher of The Rural Blog). The award recognizes rural journalists who demonstrate outstanding courage, integrity and tenacity in rural journalism.

Crews died at 77 on Nov. 12 after a long illness and nearly 30 years as publisher and editor of the twice-weekly Sacramento Valley Mirror in Willows, a town of 6,000 and the seat of Glenn County, pop. 28,000. He was known for relentless open-records requests and for spending five days in jail in 2000 for refusing to reveal sources for a story he published about theft of weapons by a former California Highway Patrol officer.

Crews told the Poynter Institute in 2017 that his twice-weekly paper averaged more than 20 records requests a year, sometimes going to court fight for access. In 2013, a judge said his suit to force a school district to turn over 3,000 withheld emails from the superintendent was frivolous, and ordered him to pay $56,595 in attorneys' fees and costs when his income was 20,000 a year. An appeals court reversed the ruling, and that helped Crews earn the California News Publishers Association Freedom of Information Award. He also received the California Press Foundation’s Newspaper Executive of the Year Award in 2009.

As Crews fought battles for open government, he was known as "an old-time community journalist who stood up for regular people and published obituaries for free," The Associated Press reported after his death. "He dashed about the town of Willows, population 6,000, in red suspenders and with a bushy white beard, covering crime and politics but also community events."

"Tim Crews exemplified the best in rural journalism: broad community service that includes holding local officials and institutions accountable," said Al Cross, director of the institute and extension professor of journalism at the University of Kentucky. "We wish Tim had received the Gish Award while he was still with us, but we are still pleased to recognize his service."

Tom and Pat Gish at award announcement
The award is named for Tom and Pat Gish, who published The Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg, Ky., for more than 50 years and repeatedly demonstrated courage, tenacity and integrity through advertiser boycotts, business competition, declining population, personal attacks, and even the burning of their office by a local policeman who state police believe was paid by coal companies.

The Gishes, who died in 2008 and 2014, respectively, were the first winners of the award, in 2005. The other winners, in chronological order, have been the Ezzell family of The Canadian (Texas) Record; Stanley Dearman (former publisher, now deceased) and Jim Prince (publisher), The Neshoba Democrat, Philadelphia, Miss.; Samantha Swindler of Portland, Oregon, for her work at the Jacksonville (Texas) Daily Progress and the daily Times-Tribune of Corbin, Ky.; Stanley Nelson and the Concordia Sentinel of Ferriday, La.; Jonathan and Susan Austin, publishers of the now-defunct Yancey County News in Burnsville, N.C.; the late Landon Wills of the McLean County News in Calhoun, Ky.; the Trapp family of the Rio Grande Sun in EspaƱola, N.M.; Ivan Foley of the Platte County Landmark in Platte City, Mo.; the Cullen family of the Storm Lake (Iowa) Times; Les Zaitz of the Malheur Enterprise in Vale, Oregon; and last year, Ken Ward Jr., then of the Charleston Gazette-Mail and now of Mountain State Spotlight; his mentor, the late Paul J. Nyden of the Charleston Gazette; and Howard Berkes, recently retired from NPR.

Presentation of this year's award has been delayed by the pandemic and will be announced later.

October 19, 2020

Phenomenal reporting by the New York Times on the pay-to-play network that aims to fill local news gaps/ Published today: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/18/technology/timpone-local-news-metric-media.html.

Follow Davey Alba's (Times reporter) Twitter feed for more insight.

October 06, 2020

Deadline Extended: ISWNE/Huck Boyd "Strengthening Community News" Research Competition

The International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors (ISWNE) and the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media at Kansas State University are seeking proposals for papers that provide insight and guidance on general issues and/or everyday problems that confront community newspapers and their newsrooms, with particular reference to weekly general-interest publications with circulations under 10,000.

The deadline for proposals has been extended to October 19, 2020. Initial proposals should not exceed two pages. One paper from the competition will be selected for presentation at the 2021 International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors conference in Reno, Nevada. 

The full call for proposals can be found here

August 20, 2020

COMIG seeks panel proposals for AEJMC New Orleans 2021

 Dear Community Journalism folks, 


We need your help brainstorming and planning panels for COMJIG for AEJMC 2021. We want our conference programming to be about you and relevant to you. So, think about the topics that interest you, the concerns you would like discussed at a national level and ideas that have emerged in your classrooms or excited your students. 


There are several large issues facing community journalism right now and, as an interest group, we want to include and represent as many unique voices as possible in our conference programming. 


Here is a template to guide you through the process of pitching panels. 

  • Panel Title: Give your idea a creative name. 
  • Panel Type:  
    • If your panel idea is more academic in nature, pick Research.  
    • If it's more about involving students or revolves around pedagogical practice, pick Teaching.  
    • If it's about freedom of speech, the journalism profession, or ethical issues, then PF&R (Or, professional freedom and responsibilities) is what you want to select. 
  • Panel Sponsorship: If you think there is another AEJMC division or interest group that might be interested in collaborating with COMJIG for the idea you have suggested, please list them. Consider which groups might compliment the idea of what will be talked about during the panel you’re proposing. We will follow up with the division or group you suggest when finalizing the panel proposals. 
  • Description of Panel: In 150-250 words, describe what this panel is about and the discussion points you would like covered. Consider that we’ll use this description to help attract other divisions or interest groups.  
  • Possible Panelists: Consider an array of diverse people and perspectives when pitching who you think would be good to invite. You don’t need to have your panelists locked down yet, you can treat this as who’d you like if the panel is accepted.  
  • Moderator: You can recommend someone else or yourself for moderating the panel, should you intend to attend AEJMC in New Orleans next year.• Contact: Provide the best way for me to get in touch with you should I need additional information or clarification for the panel you have proposed. 

Please provide the information outlined in a Word document and email it to me at christina.smith1@gcsu.edu by September 10. 


am excited to hear ideas from all of you. It is with your input and ideas that we will be able to create a program that truly represents the voice of its members. Once the program has been finalized, we will send you the details via email and post it on our blog as well as our Twitter and Facebook pages. 


Thank you for your continued support of COMJIG! 


Christina C. Smith 

Vice Chair 

Community Journalism Interest Group 

May 01, 2020

Community Newspaper Holdings closes weeklies in northeastern Kentucky; will send subscribers daily once a week; university town 55 miles away has no newspaper

By Al Cross, director and professor
Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, University of Kentucky

One of the largest chains of community newspapers, Community Newspaper Holdings Inc., has undertaken an unusual consolidation of its northeastern Kentucky weeklies into a daily.

"Welcome to a change," read the April 29 headline in The Morehead News, over a message from Group Publisher Patty Bennett, informing readers that the paper "will merge with our sister newspaper, The Daily Independent in Ashland," because of lack of advertising during the pandemic. "The Daily Independent will undertake coverage of Morehead." In other words, Morehead, a university town of 7,000 in a county of 25,000, no longer has a local newspaper.

A similar message appeared in the Grayson Journal-Enquirer and the Olive Hill Times, essentially the same paper with slightly different content, in Carter County, between Morehead and Ashland. CHNI also killed off the Greenup County News-Times, a weekly in another county adjoining Ashland and Boyd County; it's in the metropolitan area of Ashland and Huntington, W.Va.; Carter County is not, though it is oriented to Ashland. Rowan County is neither; Morehead is 55 miles from Ashland, and 65 miles from downtown Lexington.

Many dailies have swallowed up sister weeklies, but it's unusual if not unprecedented for such a consolidation over such a distance. It dismayed people in Morehead, home to Morehead State University and some recent economic developments, including a huge complex of greenhouses intended to provide vegetables to the Eastern U.S.

"This county has been booming," said Keith Kappes, a former MSU spokesman who was publisher of the News for six years. He said a local economic developer told him, "I can't say to a prospect, we've got everything you want in a small town, except a newspaper."

"There's kind of a shock effect," Kappes told The Rural Blog. "How are we gonna follow our schools, our athletics? How are we gonna be informed about what's going on in the community, how are we gonna know the good things and the needs?... If you don't have a newspaper in your community, how backward are you?"

Kappes said that when he became the paper's publisher in 2010, it was making nearly $500,000 a year, a figure that gradually declined to $180,000 by the time he left three years ago. "Even at this low ebb, The Morehead News was still profitable," he said. "I know that from the people who work there." He said the other papers were not. Bennett said she couldn't comment, but said she would pass along the request to company headquarters in Montgomery, Ala. CNHI is owned by the Retirement Systems of Alabama.

Bennett told subscribers that they would receive each Wednesday's Independent "and a special offer to subscribe. They will also be able to sample local, regional and state news about the covid-19 pandemic and other news and sports on The Daily Independent’s website, dailyindependent.com. We hope this experience will result in your subscribing to the merged newspaper and its robust website." She said subscribers who wanted refunds could ask for them by email, and invited readers to ask her questions "about our restructuring plan."

Kappes said he is talking to people in Morehead who want the town to have its own newspaper. "Its a source of pride," he said. "I think we're gonna end up with a 24/7 online newspaper that may publish once a week" in order to qualify for public-notice advertising, he said. Under Kentucky law, the newspaper with the largest bona fide circulation in a county gets the "legal ads," but if a county does not have a paper, only those in adjoining counties qualify, so the Daily Independent does not. The Kentucky Press Association explains the details and reports on newspaper frequency changes.

March 30, 2020

AEJMC accepts extended abstracts for 2020 conference

2020 Extended Abstract
AEJMC accepts extended abstracts for 2020 conference

In light of the extraordinary and historic disruptions to the lives of faculty members and graduate students as a result of the spread of the COVID-19 virus, AEJMC will accept extended abstracts as well as full papers in all divisions and interest groups for the 2020 conference.

The extended abstract format is suitable for authors who are sufficiently along in the research process to address the content elements described below, but have not had sufficient time to prepare the full paper. The extended abstracts must be at least 750 words long but no more than 1,500 words. Extended abstracts must include a reference list and a 75-word summary of the abstract. (The reference list and summary are not included in the word count). Extended abstracts may be submitted to only one division or interest group.  Extended abstracts must be uploaded as a single file to the AEJMC All-Academic site by the existing conference deadline of 11:59 p.m. CDT April 9, 2020.  Authors whose extended abstracts are selected for presentation at the conference must still submit their full paper, with all identifying author information, to the All-Academic site by 11:59 p.m. CDT, July 15, 2020.

To preserve the value of fully developed research papers, long a hallmark of the AEJMC conference, extended abstracts will not be eligible for division, interest group, or conference-wide awards. Divisions and interest groups can program extended abstracts as they see fit in regular paper sessions, high density sessions, or poster sessions, and will specify allotted presentation time as appropriate. Extended abstract submissions will be designated as such in the conference program. Finally, this new format is not one intended for future AEJMC conferences.

Content and Formatting Guidelines

1)     As noted above, length of extended abstracts must be at least 750 words but no more than 1,500 words. A 75-word (max.) summary of the abstract should precede the abstract itself. References and summary are excluded from the word count.

2)     Extended abstracts should contain all of the same content sections/elements that would normally be used in the division or interest group's paper submissions, including the study's purpose, literature review, research questions and/or hypotheses, method, findings and discussion/conclusion. The main difference, however, is the length of this submission format.

3)     For authors considering the extended abstract option, data collection and analysis must be at least 75% complete in order to meaningfully report tentative findings and conclusions. Authors should clearly report in the Method and Findings sections how far along the data collection and analysis phases are, respectively, and explain what steps remain and the anticipated value/contribution of these steps, so that reviewers can assess the foundations on which conclusions are based. Extended abstracts will be reviewed and scored using the same evaluation rubrics as currently used for full papers, but will be evaluated as to how well each of the criteria are achieved given the relative length of an extended abstract.

4)     When submitting in this format, authors must include the words "Extended Abstract" at the start of their paper title (e.g., "Extended Abstract: [Your paper title]"). Authors should clearly indicate the same on the title page of their submission. Submissions that are not appropriately labeled may be rejected.

5)     When creating the file for upload, please insert the 75-word summary of the abstract at the beginning of the extended abstract, so that this is what readers and reviewers see first.

6)     As with full paper submissions, please ensure all identifying author information has been removed for extended abstract submissions and that title pages do not contain author information. Please reference the AEJMC Uniform Paper Call for information about how to ensure this information is removed in order to ensure a blind review.

7)     Other than the extended abstract format (including length differences) and ineligibility for award competitions, all other AEJMC Uniform Paper Guidelines apply. Please review these at  http://aejmc.org/events/sanfrancisco20/paper-call/.