Bobbie Foust, still reporting at 90, wins Al Smith Award for public service through community journalism in Kentucky

Jun 1, 2024

Bobbie Foust, for decades a fixture in West Kentucky journalism, is the winner of the 2024 Al Smith Award for public service through community journalism by a Kentuckian, presented by the Institute for Rural Journalism at the University of Kentucky and the Bluegrass Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Foust has edited three newspapers in the region and reported for others, and although she just turned 90, she is still covering city council meetings according to her decades-old approach: “Be honest, be accurate; be open with people; be kind when I can, but perform the journalistic function: report the facts and let the results fall where they may.”

In semi-retirement, Foust is also writing historical articles about the region, and continuing her community service. In 2018, she served as the news-media liaison and adviser for a group of Marshall County High School students who sought gun-control measures after a mass shooting at the school in the pro-gun county. One of the parents, Gloria Hollifield, said in an award nomination, “She has the tenacity and the courage to stand for what is right, regardless of the backlash she undoubtedly faced.”

While Foust was not acting as a journalist in that role, she was using her journalism experience and skills to perform a public service, said Al Cross, director emeritus of the rural-journalism institute and secretary of the SPJ chapter. “In community journalism, journalists are by definition members of the community they serve, sometimes in ways other than journalism,” he said. “Bobbie has made clear since supposedly retiring eight years ago that she will continue to help her neighbors with journalism and other community service.”

Foust retired from the Herald-Ledger in Eddyville in January 2016 but has continued to write for The Paducah Sun and The Lake News in Calvert City, and she covers the Calvert City council for the Benton Tribune-Courier, which she edited twice. She also edited the Marshall County Messenger and was editor of the Eddyville paper in her first stint there.

She has interviewed Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson and Billy Graham; covered executions at the Kentucky State Penitentiary; and has long followed the evolution and devolution of Land Between the Lakes, the recreation area created on 170,000 acres that the Tennessee Valley Authority took from people living between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. As TVA prepared to give up the LBL to the Forest Service and Foust tried to hold officials’ feet to the fire, TVA Board Chair “Craven [Crowell] got to where he wouldn’t talk to me,” Foust recalled, adding that in her career, “That has been the continuing story that I feel like may have benefited the citizenry.”

Foust began her career at Calvert City’s first newspaper, the Valley Sun, in 1961. The newspaper closed the next year, but Foust said she freelanced as she dealt with “four little curtain-climbers” that she brought into the world from 1956 to 1959. In 1968, she joined The Calvert News and then its parent paper, the Benton Tribune-Democrat, and then its successor, the Tribune Courier. She joined the startup Marshall County Messenger as editor in 1977 and returned to the Tribune Courier in 1979, becoming editor in 1980.

Foust made the Tribune Courier a National Blue Ribbon Newspaper, an award given by the National Newspaper Foundation, and she won many awards from the Kentucky Press Association, including Freedom of Information, Community Service, news and sports reporting, and photography. But she fell out with the paper’s owner, Walt Dear, and went to work with her friend Frances Baccus at the Eddyville paper, where she was editor. When it sold three and a half years later, she joined The Paducah Sun, the regional daily, and stayed seven years, until she turned 65.

She and her husband, Ray Foust, traveled widely, but she also helped with special projects at the Sun, and in 2001, Editor Jim Paxton made her editor of the Tribune Courier, which his family media company had purchased. She left 20 months later when her husband suffered a terminal illness, but after his death, again she joined the Herald Ledger, by then also a Paxton paper, as a reporter. Even after she left the job in 2016, she kept doing journalism “because I love it,” she says. “I will probably write something the day that I die. ... I’m curious about what’s going on; I love interaction with people.”

Institute for Rural Journalism Director Benjy Hamm said, “Few journalists in Kentucky history can match the longevity and level of service that Bobbie Foust has provided as a reporter and editor to numerous communities in the commonwealth since 1961. She exhibits many of the qualities of Al Smith — including a lifetime of service — and is a worthy recipient of the award named for him.”

Bluegrass SPJ President Casey Parker-Bell of KET, a fellow native of the Jackson Purchase, said, “Bobbie Foust’s story exemplifies the type of journalism that Kentucky needs. She has the tenacity and courage all journalists should strive for and is deserving of this year’s Al Smith Award.”

The award is named for the late Albert P. Smith Jr., who was the driving force for creation of the Institute for Rural Journalism, headed its advisory board and was its chair emeritus until his death in 2021. He published newspapers in western Kentucky and middle Tennessee, was founding producer and host of KET’s “Comment on Kentucky,” and was federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission. He was the first winner of the award in 2011.

Foust will be honored at the Al Smith Awards Dinner Oct. 10 at the Embassy Suites Lexington on Newtown Pike, near Interstate 64/75. She will be joined by Eric Meyer, editor-publisher of the Marion County Record in Kansas, the 2024 winner of the Institute’s national Tom and Pat Gish Award for courage, tenacity and integrity in rural journalism, along with winners of chapter scholarships. The guest speaker will be Campbell Robertson, who covers Kentucky and other states for The New York Times. For updates, see


  • 2012: Jennifer P. Brown, Kentucky New Era; and Max Heath, Landmark Community Newspapers
  • 2013: John Nelson, Danville Advocate-Messenger
  • 2014: Bill Bishop and Julie Ardery, The Daily Yonder
  • 2015: Carl West, The State Journal, Frankfort
  • 2016: Sharon Burton, Adair County Community Voice and The Farmer’s Pride
  • 2017: Ryan Craig, Todd County Standard, and the late Larry Craig, Green River Republican
  • 2018: Stevie Lowery, The Lebanon Enterprise
  • 2019: David Thompson, Kentucky Press Association
  • 2020: Becky Barnes, The Cynthiana Democrat
  • 2021: WKMS News, Murray State University
  • 2022: Chris and Allison Evans, The Crittenden Press, Marion
  • 2023: Ben Gish and Sam Adams, The Mountain Eagle, Whitesburg