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Samantha Swindler (’02) wins award for courage

Samantha SwindlerSamantha Swindler (’02), the publisher and editor of the weekly Headlight Herald in Tillamook, Oregon, won the 2010 Tom and Pat Gish Award for courage, integrity and tenacity in rural journalism after spearheading a look into the corruption of a local sheriff.

The Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky, gives the award in honor of the couple who published The Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg, Ky., for more than 50 years. Tom Gish, who died in 2008, and his wife Pat were the first recipients of the award.

As managing editor of the daily Times-Tribune of Corbin, Ky., circulation 6,000, Swindler was threatened repeatedly as she furthered her investigation, a long and laborious task that eventually led to the sheriff’s electoral defeat:

“She did not let anyone scare her off the story or push her around,” said William Ketter, who worked with Swindler as senior vice president/news for Community Newspaper Holdings, which owns the Times-Tribune.

The prosecutor, Commonwealth’s Attorney Allen Trimble, told the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues that the paper’s “very persistent” reporting “was a very significant influence on me.”

Swindler recounts her experience in the latest edition of Nieman Reports, published by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

“There is a great need for good investigative journalism in rural America,” she writes. “Young reporters tend to think they need a byline from The New York Times to make a difference in the world. If they really want to have an impact, get a job with a community paper and start asking the tough questions that no one ever asked before.”

Read more about the award.

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