March 15, 2010

Daniel Gilbert of Bristol paper wins first community journalism prize in National Journalism Awards

The first award for community journalism in the National Journalism Awards went to Daniel Gilbert, left, of the Bristol Herald Courier "for lifting the lid on a 20-year-old state law that allowed the energy industry to profit without compensating property owners" in Southwest Virginia, says the Scripps Howard Foundation, which sponsors the awards. Each award carries a cash prize of $10,000. The Rural Blog said the 28-year-old Gilbert's series exposed "the mess Virginia and its natural-gas companies have made of a law and program to develop the state's coalbed methane and pay royalties to those who have a claim on it." (Read more) The editor of the 33,000-circulation Media General paper, J. Todd Foster, wrote that it exposed "malfeasance, corruption and outrage."

Scripps Howard established the award because "Community journalism is vitally important, not just to journalism today, but to the future of journalism, and we wanted to recognize the outstanding work that's being done," Vice President Sue Porter said. Recognition is more likely with the new category; Gilbert's entry impressed judges in the public-service competition, but was not a finalist. But one community journalist was a finalist in another category. Jim Kenyon, a staff writer for The Valley News in Lebanon, N.H., and White River Junction, Vt., circulation 16,000, was a finalist in the NJA's commentary competition, along with Gerald Seib of The Wall Street Journal. The winner was Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times. For examples of Kenyon's work, taking Dartmouth College administrators and faculty to task for not sharing in the pain of budget cuts, and uncovering preferential treatment for a movie star who got caught speeding on a rural highway, click here.

A book featuring the winners and their work, and videos about the winners' work and acceptance speeches, will be available at after the April 23 awards presentation. A printed copy may also be requested. The community-journalism category was judged by Kerry Duke, managing editor of; Rusty Coats, vice president of content and marketing for E.W. Scripps Co.; and the undersigned, director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.

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