Friday, January 25, 2013

Weekly paper, publisher that helped town recover from tornado win award for community service

The Licking Valley Courier and Publisher Earl Kinner, who helped West Liberty, Ky., recover from a devastating tornado last year, won the annual community-service award at the Kentucky Press Association convention today. Editor Miranda Cantrell, left, and advertising director Rick Adkins accepted the Lewis E. Owens Award, named for a publisher of the Lexington Herald-Leader who died in 1998.

Herald-Leader Editor Peter Baniak said the Courier "exemplifies service to community under the most trying of circumstances. Even more than that, I don’t think it’s overstating things to say that, in a time when our industry continues to face challenges on many fronts, this year’s recipient stands as an inspirational example of the power of newspapers. The power to help a community up from the rubble. The power to provide vital information to people whose lives literally depended on it. The power to remind those of us in this room why we got into this business in the first place."

Baniak recounted how Kinner's house fell down around him when the tornado hit. "After he was rescued from his basement, he stayed in a shelter. While there, he asked for a notebook and began interviewing fellow tornado survivors. . . . Cantrell started up a Facebook page to keep the people of West Liberty informed and connected, posting funeral information, notices about public meetings, information about what was open and where essential services had temporarily set up shop."

Baniak quoted former Herald-Leader reporter Lance Williams, who started out covering high-school sports for Kinner and is now the business editor at The Tennessean in Nashville: “Earl Kinner has never been the most popular nor profitable man in town – nor has he ever wanted to be. He is one of the last true newspapermen, independent and unafraid to write what needs to be written. He is fair but firm, and that approach has earned him the absolute trust of his readers. The newspaper industry has been filled with a lot of woe-is-me talk recently, but I would challenge anyone to spend a day with Earl Kinner and not walk away feeling energized about what we do.” (Read more)

KPA's general excellence awards went to the Todd County Standard, Elkton, small weekly (seven years in a row); The Springfield Sun, mid-size weekly; the Jessamine Journal, Nicholasville, large weekly; The Kentucky Standard, Bardstown, multi-weekly; Madisonville Messenger, small daily; The Advocate-Messenger, Danville, mid-size daily; and Lexington Herald-Leader, large daily. (The Courier-Journal of Louisville, by far the state's largest paper, is among those that do not enter the contest.) For the list of awards, click here.

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