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The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues was created to help rural journalists define the public agenda in their communities through strong reporting and commentary, especially on broad issues that have a local impact but few good local sources. Director Al Cross is an associate professor of journalism in the Extension Title series, meaning that most of his work is directed off campus, to professionals. For students, he teaches a course each semester in Community Journalism, in which they cover on all platforms the small but very interesting town of Midway, halfway between Lexington and the state capital of Frankfort. Their coverage appears on MidwayMessenger.org and an associated blog (URL at right). He also draws on his 16 years’ experience as political writer for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal to teach courses in covering particular elections, in which student coverage is provided to Kentucky news media.
Institute Director Al Cross and co-founder Al Smith at the institute’s 10th Anniversary and Awards Dinner in 2014. Smith, a former newspaper publisher and broadcaster is chair emeritus of the institute’s Advisory Board, headed by Lois Mateus.
WHAT WE DO
The institute is a national program, with academic partners at more than 25 colleges and universities around the country. It publishes The Rural Blog, a daily digest of events, trends, issues, ideas and journalism from and about rural America; and Kentucky Health News, which provides coverage for news media in the state. It spotlights examples of good rural journalism, conducts research on rural news media, interprets rural issues for metropolitan news media, and collaborates with a wide range of partners to deliver skills and knowledge in workshops and seminars on key rural issues such as education, health, economic development and the environment; promote accountability journalism and open government; and explore new ways of effective storytelling in the digital age.