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.
“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.”
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
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