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SPJ awards 2011 Wells Key to Al Cross


For Immediate Release

Scott Leadingham, SPJ Communications Director, 317-640-9304,
Abby Henkel, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-927-8000 ext. 215

NEW ORLEANS – The Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s largest and most broad-based journalism association, is pleased to honor Al Cross as the 2011 Wells Memorial Key recipient.

The award, presented Tuesday night, Sept. 27, during the President’s Installation Banquet at the Excellence in Journalism conference in New Orleans, is the highest honor bestowed by SPJ on a member. Click here for a list of previous honorees.

“You hope that whatever you did to deserve (the Wells Key) serves as an example to others,” Cross said after accepting the award.

Cross began as a charter member of SPJ at Western Kentucky University in 1974. He later served as president of the Louisville chapter; vice president of the Bluegrass chapter; Region 5 Director (Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky); and 2001-02 national president.

Through his years of involvement, Cross has had a measurably positive effect on SPJ. He reinvigorated and chaired Project Watchdog, an SPJ campaign to communicate the importance of a free press and the First Amendment. In these roles, he has assisted other chapter presidents and national officers. His understanding of small and rural news markets has been valuable SPJ’s work serving journalists working in all media.

He now serves as a board member of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, the educational arm of SPJ. He is also a former member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee.

Cross’ nominators, including six past Wells Key recipients and eight past national SPJ presidents, wrote: “Since his early days in journalism and SPJ, Al has modeled the central tenets of our organization—to help and serve fellow journalists, whether of the Society or not.”

For 26 years, Cross worked for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., including nearly 16 years as the paper’s chief political writer for its Frankfort, Ky., bureau. He was a member of the team awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1989 for its coverage of the nation’s worst bus and drunk driving crash. He is currently an associate extension professor of journalism at the University of Kentucky and director of the school’s Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues.

The Wells Key was first presented in 1913. The award is named for Chester B. Wells, Sigma Delta Chi’s second national president who died in office in 1913 at age 26. Wells’ brief time in office was marked by an inspiring dedication to the work and ideals of Sigma Delta Chi, and after his death, members decided to award a jeweled key each year in his memory to a member who had performed meritorious service to the Society.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, visit www.spj.org.


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