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Al Smith

The Al Smith Award honors public service through community journalism by Kentuckians. Smith was the first recipient of the award.

This annual event is designed to honor its namesake: Albert P. Smith Jr., who owned weekly newspapers in Kentucky and Tennessee, was founding host of KET’s “Comment on Kentucky” and main founder of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.

Al Smith’s powerful story

In the spirit of its namesake, the dinner event was created in 2011 to honor good journalism for rural Kentucky communities. The celebration has grown to include the Tom and Pat Gish Award, recognizing student scholarship contributions and a keynote speaker.


In 2023, Susan Page of USA Today addressed how much the country needs community journalism as a path to support democracy and a way to connect neighbor to neighbor – even in divisive times. She pointed to the trust that residents have in local reporters and cited recent examples of tenacious rural journalism.

The event is co-sponsored by the Institute for Rural Journalism and the Bluegrass Chapter (KY) of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Al Smith Awards


Sam Adams and Ben Gish

The 2023 recipients were Ben Gish and Sam Adams, who set a new standard for disaster coverage by a weekly newspaper after last year's flood in southeastern Kentucky.

Past award winners and their affiliations at the time:

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