Public Service Pulitzer Winner ?Pays it Forward? by Donating Prize Money for Rural Journos

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By: E&P Staff

One young reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize and other awards for a series in Appalachia is “paying it forward” for his fellow journalists.

Daniel Gilbert, whose series in the Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service and earned him the $10,000 prize for Community Journalism in the National Journalism Awards sponsored by the Scripps Howard Foundation, has donated the latter prize to help other rural journalists get the same kind of training that he received.
 
Gilbert and the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues have created the Fund for Rural Computer-Assisted Reporting to finance fellowships for rural journalists to attend the computer-assisted reporting boot camps of Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc.
 
The reporter has donated the Scripps prize to the endowment of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky. Gifts to the endowment through April 2011 are matched by the Research Challenge Trust Fund of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Earnings from that amount will fund at least one fellowship per year for a rural journalist to attend a CAR boot camp, for which IRE will discount the registration fee as part of the fellowship.

“It will be something of great benefit for communities that aren’t served by major newspapers,” Gilbert said in a statement.

Gilbert, 28, is leaving Bristol for Houston to cover the oil and gas industry for The Wall Street Journal. He announced the Fund for R-CAR in his final article for the Herald Courier on Sunday.

“Journalism in the public interest should spring from need, not from superior resources,” he wrote. “Nowhere is this brand of reporting needed more than in rural areas, like Southwest Virginia, that are not covered in any depth by powerhouse media outlets. As the reach of these outlets continues to shrink, the watchdog role in rural communities increasingly falls to the local newspaper, television station and Website.”

Gilbert’s donation “is more than a lasting legacy to rural journalists,” Al Cross, the Institute’s director, said in a statement. “It is a reminder of the challenges they face — lack of resources, time and support — but also the opportunities they have, if given the right tools, to render great public service.”

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