Tom and Pat Gish, owners and publishers of the Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg, Ky., will receive the 49th Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award for journalism at Colby College in Maine on October 11. The award, established in 1952, is presented annually to honor important contributions to the nations journalistic achievement and to remember Lovejoy, a Colby graduate who was Americas 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 Colbys 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 Colbys 2001 Lovejoy fellows, the Gishes will both receive honorary doctor of laws degrees and will deliver an address at the college on October 11. The Lovejoy Convocation is open to the public. The Lovejoy Award is named for Elijah Parish Lovejoy, a native of Albion, Maine, and an 1826 graduate of Colby who is considered Americas first martyr to freedom of the press. He was killed on November 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 nations 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.