Friday, December 24, 2010

The Rural Blog and its publisher seek your help

The Rural Blog is published by the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which needs your help.

Over the last 20 years, “Few academically based individuals or institutions have made a truly lasting impact upon our nation’s rural policy framework. The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues is in this very small cadre,” says Charles W. Fluharty, president and CEO of the Rural Policy Research Institute. He calls the blog “one of the most critical institutional developments in our field over the last decade,” because of its impact “on the national rural policy and journalism communities.”

The Institute has been able to conduct a wide range of activities and have a national and even international impact (for details click here) because of support from individuals, foundations and the University of Kentucky, which embraced the idea from the start. The university helped raise key operating grants, created a faculty line for the Institute director, picked up other costs when grant money ran out, and set aside $1.5 million in a state matching fund for an endowment.

That match will expire in April, all too soon because of poor economic conditions in the nation and even worse conditions in the news business, from which we had hoped to gain most of our support. Perhaps ironically, the financial squeeze on metropolitan newspapers and other changes in the news media have made all the more important the Institute’s vision of helping rural America through journalism, because most major papers and broadcast outlets have abandoned coverage of rural areas. That has left a vacuum that rural news media must fill, covering issues and setting the public agenda in their communities. The Institute helps them do that with the blog, its website and its network of academic partners at 28 universities in 18 states, from Maine to Texas to Alaska. For recent details on that work, click here.

The Institute has raised $600,000 for its endowment. Not only has that money been matched by the state, we have been allowed to use earnings from the unmatched state funds, thanks to a pledge by supporters to raise the remaining $900,000 allocated for the Institute. However, any unmatched money will revert to the state this summer, so we face the prospect of a serious budget cut next year unless the endowment gets a substantial boost.

Please consider making an end-of-the-year gift to the Institute. Your gift will allow us to continue the important work of supporting rural journalists and citizen involvement in public policy. You may send a check to 122 Grehan Bldg., Lexington KY 40506-0042, or donate online at Go to the gift-designation box and select Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.

Thanks for your support and your readership of The Rural Blog. We wish you happy holidays and a great new year. --Al Cross, director, IRJCI, and assistant extension professor, School of Journalism and Telecommunications, University of Kentucky

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