|Sharon Burton accepted the Al Smith Award, which was on the table at the left.|
Sharon Burton of Columbia, Ky., gave a passionate, inspiring speech to more than 200 people in Lexington at the Al Smith Awards Dinner of the Bluegrass Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, publisher of The Rural Blog. She won the Al Smith Award for public service through community journalism by a Kentuckian, for her establishment and maintenance of The Farmer's Pride, the statewide agricultural newspaper, and the weekly Adair County Community Voice, which has campaigned for openness and transparency in local government.
After recounting some of her experiences, including a return visit to a bootlegger after 30 years, during a local-option election, Burton explained her boldness: “First, I believe in the Bible…. and there is a tremendous freedom when someone is trying to pressure you to write or not write something. . . . Two, there's this document called the Constitution. And the Bill of Rights. It protects our inalienable rights. Our freedom of speech. Of the press. People died on this soil to have the right to make our own laws. People died on foreign soil to protect the rights we have built into those laws. We give them away too freely. When people tell me they won’t talk to me about an injustice because they are afraid for their job, I find that sad. With those freedoms come responsibility. To be informed. To speak out against injustice. To look out for one another.”