Excellence in Journalism 2014 | Nashville, Tenn.


SPJ bestows highest honor upon former President Al Cross

By The Working Press

By Olivia Ingle
The Working Press

Al Cross was greeted with applause and a standing ovation when he walked onstage at the Society of Professional Journalists President’s Installation Banquet Tuesday evening.

SPJ’s Immediate Past President Hagit Limor presented Cross with the 2011 Wells Memorial Key, SPJ’s highest honor, in recognition of a journalist who has served the society in an outstanding fashion.

Al Cross, receipient of the 2011 Wells Key award, spoke Tuesday night during the SPJ President's Installation Banquet at the close of the Excellence in Journalism 2011 convention. Kevin Zansler/The Working Press

“I’m pleased to be joining a very distinguished group,” Cross said in recognition of several previous honorees of the Wells Memorial Key who were also present at the banquet.

Cross’ long career includes more than 26 years working as a reporter at The Courier-Journal covering elections and state government.

Since 2005, he has been the permanent director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. He also works as an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky.

He is a past SPJ national president and has held various positions within his professional chapter. He is also a member of several SPJ national committees and a director of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

Limor said she was honored to present Cross with the award.

“Al Cross is an institution for SPJ,” Limor said. “He is the true definition of a leader.”

Paul Steinle, president of “Valid Sources” and a former president of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, said he thinks Cross made important contributions to journalism by identifying a spectrum of newspapers that needed leadership recognition.

“He’s done great work leading his institute to bring attention to these people and to improve the quality of journalism and discourse within a special group of newspapers across the United States,” Steinle said.

Sue Porter, an SDX Foundation board member and vice president programs of Scripps Howard Foundation, said she has a great deal of respect for Cross.

“Al Cross rises to the challenges of our profession, and has done so consistently throughout his career,” Porter said. “Most recently, as director of the Rural Journalism Institute, his leadership is fulfilling a need that would otherwise go unanswered.”

Cross said he was grateful to everyone who helped him get to where he is today.

“Journalism is who I am and what I am,” Cross said. “This organization is a big part of that.”


SPJ Salutes
A list of recipients of major SPJ awards of 2011:

Pro Chapters of the Year
Large chapter division: Minnesota Pro chapter, Washington, D.C. Pro chapter, Chicago Headline Club
Small chapter division: Madison Pro chapter, St. Louis Pro chapter, Utah Headliners
Large chapter of the year: Chicago Headline Club
Small chapter of the year: Utah Headliners


Howard S. Dubin Outstanding Pro Member Award

Small chapter division: Linda Petersen, Utah Headliners
Large chapter division: Rebecca Baker, president of the New York Deadline Club

Regional Director of the Year
Region No. 2 Director Brian Eckert

SPJ First Amendment Award
Mark Prendergast, ombudsman, Stars and Stripes

Sunshine Award
Anne Geggis, Daytona Beach News-Journal
Samantha Turley, crime reporter, Marshall University
Marcus Constantino, photographer, Marshall University

Eugene S. Pulliam First Amendment Award

The Associated Press

Fellows of the Society
Lane DeGregory, features writer, St. Petersburg Times
Richard Goehler, First Amendment litigator and defender, Frost Brown Todd LLC
Grover Cleveland Hall, former editor, Montgomery Advertiser

Wells Memorial Key
Al Cross, 2001 SPJ national president




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  • Robyn Davis Sekula

    Thank you for this post. I agree with your actions and support you and SPJ. We are not a breaking news organization, and we don’t need to act with haste. We can consider issues, discuss those issues and make decisions together, as happened here.

  • Danielle McLean

    Thanks so much Dana for speaking out!

    I think laws that allow discrimination do harm the journalism community and is definitely
    something we should condemn. Here’s why:

    -Lets say a gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer or transgender journalist wants to write a story about a private company. Could that journalist be discriminated against by that company and not have the ability to cover
    it?
    – What if that journalist is covering a political rally being held at a privately-owned function hall or small business? Could that journalist be stopped from covering that rally on the basis on religious freedom?
    – What if that journalist was working for a religious newspaper or a newspaper that has religious owners. Could that journalist be fired for being who they are?

    Part of our mission is perpetuating a free press. We should condemn laws that possibly limit members of our organization’s ability from carrying out that mission.

  • Hootyman

    SPJ should look into the “journalists” who’s “reporting” incited an online mob to shut down Memories pizza shop. Seems they specifically sought out a Christian owner to get their “gotcha” quote – but didn’t bother asking vendors of other religions – also they did not answer queries as to how many businesses they went to before getting what they were seeking (the pizza shop is over 40 miles from the news station reporting it).

    Then, to make matters worse, another journalist jumped in to mock the pizza shop (retweeting obscene posts that were put on the businesses Yelp reviews) THEN falsely and publicly made an accusation of fraud at the people who setup a GoFundMe page to help the business which had been shut down due to threats.

    http://twitchy.com/2015/04/03/thats-messed-up-va-cbs-employee-reports-memoriespizza-gofundme-for-fraud-just-in-case/?utm_source=autotweet&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=twitter

    Also, various journalists failed to report that the pizza shop proudly serves LGBTQ customers, but would refuse to participate in a same sex wedding if asked. Note that the pizza shop has never been asked by a customer to cater a wedding either same sex or traditional – they were only responding to a hypothetical question from a reporter who had been seeking such an answer for days from various businesses (and finally found one).

    In summary, we have a story of “journalists” working hard to create a story, not report it – THEN reporting it in the most sensational way to cause harm to the business (either leaving out or misquoting the fact that the pizza shop serves LGBTQ customers and has never been asked by them to cater a wedding) – THEN another journalist mocking the business for being shut down – THEN that same journalist publicly saying they filed a fraud complaint with no evidence against the people who started a GoFundMe page for the business(she falsely said she attempted to contact the fund originators before she claimed fraud – she didn’t) – THEN attempted to say she was only concerned for the business (after posting comments of outrage that they were raising so much money and re-posting obscene Yelp content that was being used to attack the business).

    Certainly not journalism’s finest moments….