From college buddies to colleagues, now they’re Hall of Famers

Monica Dias and Michael Collins met each other on the staff of the College Heights Herald and have been close friends ever since. In May, more than 40 years after they met, Michael and Monica will both be inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, joining a long list of folks with WKU connections honored for their contributions to journalism.

Monica Dias and Michael Collins, with the late Mike Collins, at the 2019 WKU Student Publications Homecoming Breakfast.

Michael has spent his entire career in newsrooms, starting at The Kentucky Post and currently is a White House correspondent for USA Today. Monica spent 17 years in the newsrooms of The Kentucky Post and The Cincinnati Post, but then went to law school. She has been an attorney focusing on media issues since 2002, and is currently senior counsel for content and intellectual property at The E.W. Scripps Co.

So it’s fitting that Monica and Michael join the ranks of journalism hall of famers at the same time. But they’re just the latest to join the illustrious roster of journalists with Herald or WKU connections honored with Hall of Fame ranking.

The ceremony will be at 4 p.m. CDT on May 4 and will be available via Zoom. For information:

There may be more out there, but here are the ones I have identified so far, with their entries on the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame website:


David B. Whitaker: Head of the Department of Journalism at Western Kentucky University from its inception in 1977 until his retirement from that position in 1984. Continues as professor in department. Joined Western in 1970 as coordinator of news-editorial sequence; named distinguished Business Advisor in 1973 by National Council of College Publications Advisers. Noted for establishment of journalism department at Western, bringing quality instructors to the school, eliminating debt of student newspaper, College Heights Herald, and guiding it to national prominence as winner of three national and two regional Pacemaker awards. Named WKU outstanding professor in 1978 by Phi Eta Sigma, freshman scholastic honorary; honored in 1977 and 1984 by student chapter of Society of Professional Journalists/Sigma Delta Chi; former president, Kentucky Council for Education in Journalism. Gained accreditation for Western’s journalism program. Former sports writer and slot man for the Courier-Journal, copy editor for the Louisville Times; former city editor, Park City Daily News, B.A. and M.A. from Western.


James D. Ausenbaugh: Metropolitan newspaperman and journalism educator. Native of Dawson Springs; received degree in journalism from University of Kentucky in 1952. Started career at weekly newspapers in Princeton and Russellville and at The Evansville Press, before joining The Courier-Journal in 1954. Served as copy editor, assistant city editor, city editor and regional editor. Established statewide newsgathering operation and set up gavel-to-gavel legislative coverage. Spent two years as copy editor, telegraph editor and news editor of The Stars and Stripes in Germany as a civilian during the mid-‘60s. Since 1976, he has been a professor of journalism at Western Kentucky University and has led numerous writing and editing seminars for newspapers and institutes around the nation. Named Teacher of the Year at WKU in 1986; awarded International Press Institute fellowship to New Zealand, 1958. Noted for meticulous training of journalism students and professionals. Died November 2017.


Larry Craig: Former weekly newspaper editor and publisher. Adjunct professor of journalism, Western Kentucky University. Ordained Southern Baptist minister. Native of Todd County, started newspaper career as a reporter and columnist for Russellville News-Democrat and Logan Leader, covering politics, education and general news. Named editor of Green River Republican in Morgantown in 1980 and bought paper two years later. Gained reputation for strong editorial positions against the Ku Klux Klan and for other unpopular stands. Newspaper office once fired upon, and the church he pastored burned by Klan members, who were sent to prison. Sold newspaper in 1990 and joined journalism staff at Western Kentucky University. Won numerous awards from Kentucky Press Association for investigative reporting, editorials and photography. Popular speaker on press ethics and First Amendment issues. President, Kentucky Press Association, 1989.


Jo-Ann Huff Albers: Director, School of Journalism and Broadcasting, Western Kentucky University. A 1959 broadcasting graduate of Miami University, she later earned a master’s degree in communication arts from Xavier University in 1962. Led Western Kentucky University’s journalism department for more than a dozen years, started in 1987. In 1999, named director of the school, overseeing 21 full-time faculty members, six undergraduate degree programs and more than 850 undergraduate majors. Spent 20 years with the Cincinnati Enquirer in various reporting and editing positions. Served as Kentucky executive editor from 1979 to 1981, leaving to become editor and publisher of the Sturgis (Mich.) Journal. While serving as editor and publisher of the Public Opinion, spear-headed county development program that led to establishment of Office of Economic Development and first cooperative venture among five chambers of commerce in Franklin County, Pa. Also spent a year as a general news executive with Gannett in Rosslyn, Va., just prior to joining WKU. Led the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication as president from 1993 to 1994, and honored as the 2000 Gerald Sass Journalism Administrator of the Year by Freedom Forum/ASJMC.


Jon Fleischaker: Has represented numerous outlets for over three decades, including The Courier-Journal and Louisville Times Company, The New York Times Company, Gannett Co., Inc., The Hearst Corporation, The Kentucky Press Association, The Associated Press, assorted broadcasting outlets and public relations companies. Has been actively involved in creating legislation protecting the press in Kentucky, including authoring the Open Meetings and Open Records Acts as well as the Retraction Statute. Has actively litigated most major media issues in Kentucky, including defamation issues, invasion of privacy cases, access to information and source protection. The only Kentucky lawyer listed in The Best Lawyers in America, listed for media law. Education: J.D., University of Pennsylvania, magna cum laude (1970), Editor of The Law Review and B.A., Swarthmore College (1967). [Fleischaker and his wife, Kim Greene, fund the Fleischaker-Greene Scholars in the First Amendment program at WKU.]


Bob Adams: Adviser to Western Kentucky University’s College Heights Herald, where students call him “Mr. A,” since 1968. Newspaper has won numerous national awards during his tenure, including 10 Pacemaker Awards (as of 2004). Herald was named to the Associated Collegiate Press Hall of Fame in 1989. Adviser to WKU’s award-winning yearbook, the Talisman, 1990-1996 and 2002-present. As Director of Student Publications, has guided and nurtured the careers of hundreds of journalists throughout Kentucky and beyond. Named outstanding four-year university newspaper adviser by National Council of College Publications Advisers in 1978. Began career as reporter and acting sports editor for the Bowling Green Daily News; later was publisher or co-publisher of five weekly newspapers in Kentucky and Tennessee. Holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from WKU.


Don Neagle: Co-owner and news director at WRUS-AM, Russellville, the only radio station in Logan County. Has been with WRUS since 1958 and continues to do 6:00-11:00 a.m. morning show including news, interviews, and listener calls. Began his career at WLCK-AM in Greensburg, his hometown, at 16. Received Kentucky Broadcasters Association Kentucky Mike Award in 2005. Attended Western Kentucky University.

Larry Spitzer: Staff photographer for The Courier-Journal and The Louisville Times for more than 35 years, traveling throughout the state, often on very short notice. Named photography assignments editor in 1982, a position he held through his retirement in 1995. Part of Pulitzer Prize-winning team for 1975 coverage of court-ordered busing for school desegregation. Won numerous awards from National Press Photographers Association, Society of Professional Journalists, International Association of Firefighters. Work has been published in Time and Life magazines and newspapers across the U.S. Active in the Society of Professional Journalists; helped develop student chapter at Western Kentucky University. Died July 2016.


Al Tompkins: Group Leader for Broadcasting and Online at The Poynter Institute. Writes daily “Al’s Morning Meeting” story idea column on read by more than 20,000 people. Author of Aim For The Heart: A Guide for TV Producers and Reporters; co-author of Radio and Television News Directors Foundation’s Newsroom Ethics workbook. Before joining Poynter in 1998, spent 25 years as a photojournalist, reporter, producer, anchor, assistant news director, special projects/investigations director, documentary producer, news director. Received 1999 Clarion Award for his documentary Saving Stefani. Winner of numerous other awards, including national Emmy Award, Peabody Award, seven National Headliner Awards, two Iris Awards, Robert F. Kennedy Award for International Reporting. Graduate of Western Kentucky University.


Neil Budde: Online news pioneer. President and chief product officer at DailyMe Inc., online news aggregator. Previously general manager at Yahoo! News, founding editor and publisher of The Wall Street Journal Online and deputy editorial director for Dow Jones News/Retrieval. Moved to online after editing and reporting work with the Courier-Journal, USA Today and The Richmond Times-Dispatch. Has received awards for business journalism and use of technology in journalism. Holds degrees from Western Kentucky University and University of Louisville.

Al Cross: Director of UK’s Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. Spent more than 26 years as reporter for The Courier-Journal, last 15½ as political writer; continues column fortnightly. His coverage ranged from presidential to local elections and included all facets of state government. Received numerous awards, including share of Pulitzer Prize won by C-J staff in 1989 for coverage of the nation’s deadliest bus crash. Grew up in Albany, Ky., started writing for Clinton County News at 11 and announcing on WANY at 13; appeared on KET’s “Comment on Kentucky” at 21; graduate of Western Kentucky University. Editor-manager of weekly papers in Monticello and Leitchfield, assistant managing editor in Russellville. National president of the Society of Professional Journalists 2001-02, only Kentuckian to hold that post.


Bill Luster: Photojournalist at The Courier-Journal from 1969 to 2011, part of that time as Director of Photography. Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, one in 1976 as part of the staff covering court-ordered busing and its ramifications, and the second in 1989 as part of the team covering the national’s deadliest bus and drunk-driving crash, at Carrollton, Ky. He was President of the National Press Photographers Association, 1993-94; received NPPA’s 2000 Joseph Costa Award for innovative leadership. He directed NPPA’s Flying Short Course for 12 years; chaired the NPPA-Nikon Documentary Sabbatical program, was five-time Kentucky Photographer of the Year; named Visual Journalist of the Year in 2000 by Western Kentucky University, his alma mater. Bill started his career as a teenager at the Glasgow Daily Times in his hometown. Received Joseph Sprague Award from NPPA in 2010, given for lifetime achievement and dedication to the craft of photojournalism.


Dan Modlin: Set high standards for public radio news programs as news director of WKYU-FM at Western Kentucky University from 1990 to 2013, earning the station national respect. His coverage included education, consumer protection, mental health, prescription drug abuse, child abuse and neglect, colorectal cancer and a 30-minute documentary about President Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, which is on file at the Truman Presidential Library and won a first-place award from Public Radio News Directors Inc. in 2011. He won many other awards from PRNDI and The Associated Press in Kentucky. A songwriter, musician and native of Indiana, he earned a bachelor’s degree in social science and English and a master’s degree in history at Ball State University, and worked for the Indianapolis-based Rural Radio Network from 1973 to 1990.


Wes Strader: Charles Wesley Strader was the “Voice of the Hilltoppers” from 1964 to 2000 as play-by-play reporter for football and men’s basketball teams at Western Kentucky University. He called WKU men’s basketball appearances in the 1971 Final Four and 1993 Sweet 16, and the football team’s appearances in the 1973 and 1975 national championship games. The unchallenged voice of authority on Hilltopper sports for five decades, he was known for his straight-up game calls that pulled no punches, and for his comprehensive reporting on Bowling Green’s WBGN Radio. He has called state high school basketball tournaments for 52 years. After leaving the university-controlled broadcasts, he hosted a syndicated University of Kentucky postgame radio show for eight seasons. In 2008, he rejoined the WKU broadcast team to host shows before football and men’s basketball, and a post-game call-in. A UK graduate, he covered the 1960 Democratic National Convention for a Kentucky radio network. Died January 2018.


Tom Eblen: A native of Lexington and a graduate of Western Kentucky University, he began his career as an Associated Press correspondent in Tennessee and covered the nation’s largest case of insider bank fraud. As a regional reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he helped lead a Pulitzer Prize finalist team covering simultaneous prison riots in Louisiana and Georgia. He won a Best of Cox Award for his reporting on the collapse of Eastern Airlines and directed much of the Journal-Constitution’s business news coverage for six years. He returned home in 1998 and was managing editor of The Lexington Herald-Leader for 10 years. For two of those years, he also was acting executive editor. Under his leadership, the newspaper won many awards for news coverage and investigations. He asked to become a columnist in 2008 and made the assignment perhaps the best job in Kentucky journalism, covering a variety of often-overlooked topics and writing influential commentary.

Chuck and Donna Stinnett: Partners in life and journalism for more than 40 years, Charles Roger and Donna Buckles Stinnett met at Western Kentucky University, their alma mater, then worked for The Leitchfield Gazette and other papers before finding their home in Henderson at The Gleaner, where for most of the time she was features editor and he was business editor. They also wrote stories and columns, became deeply ingrained in Henderson’s civic life, and were named Distinguished Citizens of the Year in 2015. They won the William R. Burleigh Award for Community Service from the Scripps Howard Foundation and the Lewis Owens Award for Community Service from the Kentucky Press Association and the Lexington Herald-Leader. Chuck, a native of Lexington, won a National Press Photographers Association award and also worked at The (Somerset) Commonwealth Journal. Donna, a native of Caneyville, was editor of WKU’s award-winning Talisman yearbook and worked at the Glasgow Daily Times.


Tom Caudill: An effective force for high-quality journalism, he was a mentor and talent scout for generations of young journalists in a 46-year career. A native of Franklin, he earned a journalism degree at Western Kentucky University and was editor of its College Heights Herald. He was a reporter and city editor at the Bowling Green Daily News and associate editor of The Gleaner in Henderson before going to The Lexington Herald in 1981 as assistant city/state editor. He retired as managing editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader in 2017 after 36 years at the newspaper. He played several key roles in the Kentucky Press Association, including president in 1999 and chair of its Legal Defense Fund since it was established in 1996. He was named KPA’s most valuable member in 2000. He was president of the Kentucky Associated Press Editors and serves on the boards of the College Heights Herald and the Kentucky Kernel at the University of Kentucky.

Corban Goble: A one-time printer’s devil who earned a doctorate in mass communications, he started working at the Berea College Press as a ninth grader for 11 cents an hour. Before graduation from the college, he worked for The Berea Citizen, was editor of the college newspaper and co-editor of the yearbook. After serving in the Navy during the Korean War, he returned to the press and the Citizen, both owned by the college. From 1964 to 1970 he was editor of the paper and superintendent of the press. He chaired the circulation division of the Kentucky Press Association and served on its executive committee. Shifting to academia, he earned a master’s degree in communications at the University of Kentucky and a doctorate at Indiana University, where his dissertation was on the American history of the Mergenthaler linotype machine. He taught journalism while at both schools, and for 11 years full-time and five years part-time at Western Kentucky University.


Ronnie Ellis: As Frankfort correspondent for Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. from 2005 to 2018, he played a unique role in Kentucky journalism, covering the state capital for largely Appalachian communities, where he often went for stories. He often scooped larger news outlets and withstood attacks from a governor. He was a skilled TV commentator and wrote insightful, incisive and authoritative columns offering a perspective that differed from those typically found at larger news outlets, a useful service in an era of polarized politics. His time with CNHI followed stints as a reporter in Henderson and his native Glasgow, interrupted by a career with the United Way. He retired in 2018 but continued to write a political column. He died in 2020, soon after his election to the Hall of Fame. He was a graduate of Western Kentucky University.