George Pyle, editorial page editor of the Salina (Kan.) Journal, has been awarded the Society of Professional Journalists 1998 Pulliam Editorial Writing Fellowship.
The $40,000 editorial writing award was established to enhance the professional development of outstanding editorial writers. The award is administered by the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, the education arm of SPJ. In his proposal, Pyle said he would use the fellowship grant to “study modern agriculture, how it came to be, where it is and, more importantly, where it is likely to be heading as we enter the next millennium.”
The fellowship will allow Pyle to take a leave of absence from his duties at the Salina Journal to begin his agricultural studies. He plans to begin by visiting the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Kansas State University and The Land Institute, a nonprofit sustainable agriculture research facility in Salina. He plans to contribute to one or more books on the subject.
“Though I have lived all but a few months of my life in the farm states of Nebraska and Kansas, I increasingly feel that I am not nearly knowledgeable enough about the scientific, economic, environmental and political factors that shape modern American agriculture. Nor, I fear, are most of the rest of the people who live in Nebraska and Kansas, even our political leaders, even our farmers,” said Pyle.
The fellowship award was raised this year to $40,000 from $30,000. While the judges unanimously selected Pyle, he faced stiff competition as three of this year’s applicants have been Pulitzer Prize finalists.
“We were fortunate to have a number of remarkable entries this year, but the judges felt that George’s experience, his demonstrated writing and reasoning skills and the significance of the project he proposed made him the clear choice for the fellowship,” said Paul McMasters, SPJ past president and chair of the judging committee. “Agriculture and how it evolves touches every American. The more we learn from experts like George Pyle, the better it is for everyone.”
Pyle graduated with honors from Wichita State University in 1978 and immediately started working for the Harris Enterprises group of Kansas newspapers. He was a reporter for the Garden City Telegram and the Ottawa Herald, a reporter, editor and editorial writer for the Olathe Daily News and managing editor of the Chanute Tribune before coming to Salina.
Since coming to Salina, Pyle has had two columns published on the Op-Ed Page of The New York Times. He was prominently featured as an expert on Kansas life and politics in the PBS Frontline documentary “The Choice ’96.” He is also the co-host of a daily talk show on local radio station KSAL.
The Pulliam fellowship began in 1977 through a grant from Mrs. Eugene C. Pulliam. The grant honors the memory of Eugene C. Pulliam, one of the founding members of Sigma Delta Chi, the forerunner of SPJ. During his journalistic career, Pulliam served as publisher of The Arizona Republic, The Phoenix Gazette, The Indianapolis Star, The Indianapolis News, The Muncie Star, the Muncie Evening Press, and the Vincennes Sun Commercial.
Pyle will receive the award at the fourth annual Pulliam Editorial Fellowship Banquet in November at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.