Owners and publishers, The Mountain Eagle

Publishers of Kentucky Weekly Receive 2001 Lovejoy Award

Tom and Pat Gish, owners and publishers of the Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg, Ky., received the 49th Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award for journalism at Colby on Oct. 11. The award, established in 1952, is presented annually to honor important contributions to the nation’s journalistic achievement and to remember Lovejoy, a Colby graduate who was America’s first martyr to freedom of the press.

The Gishes were selected for their courage in writing about the failures of the War on Poverty, the ravages of strip mining, mine safety, home-loan gouging by eastern Kentucky banks, union leaders’ corruption, police brutality and problems in local schools. Since purchasing the newspaper in 1957 they have endured shunning, threats against their children, accusations that they were communists, boycotts and a firebombing that destroyed their newspaper office in 1974.

“In a search for journalists who exemplify the Lovejoy tradition of fearlessness and commitment to telling painful truths, there may be no better candidates than Tom and Pat Gish,” said Rebecca Corbett, assistant managing editor of the Baltimore Sun and a member of Colby’s Lovejoy Selection Committee.

The motto of the Mountain Eagle is “It Screams.” An editor at the Lexington Herald-Leader wrote of the Gishes, “… they have argued their case in countless editorials notable for three qualities: thoroughness, clarity, and bite.”

As Colby’s 2001 Lovejoy fellows, the Gishes received honorary doctor of laws degrees and delivered an address at the College. The Lovejoy Award is named for Elijah Parish Lovejoy, a native of Albion, Maine, and an 1826 graduate of Colby who is considered America’s first martyr to freedom of the press. He was killed Nov. 7, 1837, in Alton, Ill., defending his abolitionist newspaper against a pro-slavery mob. Colby established the award in 1952 for an editor, reporter or publisher who has contributed to the nation’s journalistic achievement. Recent recipients include Bill Kovach, William Raspberry, Ellen Goodman and David Halberstam.

The Gishes were selected to receive the award by a committee of distinguished newspaper editors chaired by Matthew Storin, editor of The Boston Globe and including William Hilliard, former executive editor of The Oregonian; Ann Marie Lipinski, editor of The Chicago Tribune; Rena Pederson, editorial page editor of the Dallas Morning News; Rebecca Corbett, assistant managing editor of the Baltimore Sun and Colby President William D. Adams.