Friday, January 20, 2017

Award-winning publisher of small paper takes helm of Ky. Press Association, challenges his colleagues

By Al Cross
Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues

The editor-publisher of the paper judged the state's best weekly for the last nine years became president of the Kentucky Press Association Friday and immediately challenged his colleagues to do better.

Ryan Craig holds his latest award from
the press association that he now leads.
"You will have fear if you do the right thing," Ryan Craig said, beginning the story of how his Todd County Standard investigated the murder of a girl in foster care, fought the stonewalling of state officials and beat them in court.

"My fear was that we wouldn't do the right thing," he said at the KPA's annual convention in Louisville. "That is the thing that concerns me about most newspapers. . . . We're not being as aggressive as we should be, doing the stories that should be done."

Craig said his Western Kentucky county is "unhealthy and uneducated," and too many workers can't pass drug tests. "There are two or three things right there you can say about YOUR home county," he told the luncheon crowd. "It's not a Todd County problem, it's a Kentucky problem."

Noting the recent, quick passage of long-sought labor and abortion legislation by the newly Republican state legislature, Craig said journalists need to ask their legislators, "What are you going to do about the real problems of the state of Kentucky?"

He concluded, "Take the power you were given and report with no fear. Become a necessary part of your readers' lives. . . . Give 'em something they want to read."

That night, Craig's nine-year winning streak ended, as the Henry County Local earned the General Excellence award for small weeklies, based on awards in 28 contest categories. The Springfield Sun was second and the Standard was third, but it won a first prize for best use of social media, which it used to engage the community in a search for missing teenagers during a flood.

Craig said afterward that for most of the contest period, he had been executive director of the chamber of commerce in adjoining, larger Logan County, where he lives. His paper, which has had only six pages some recent weeks, isn't large enough to make a big living. But he remains an example to his colleagues, who have chosen him to be a leader at a challenging time for newspapers.

Craig's predecessor, Loyd Ford of The Lake News in Calvert City, said newspapers "must embrace community advocacy. . . . Let your readers know your newspaper is an irreplaceable part of your community."

No comments: