By Frank Boyett, The Henderson Gleaner
HENDERSON, Ky. - Donna and Chuck Stinnett won the Pulitzer Prize Thursday night.
Actually, they've had it all along for many years. They just received public recognition for the equivalent Thursday at Kyndle's annual dinner, when they were named Distinguished Citizens of the Year, that organization's highest honor.
Chuck said he and Donna moved to Henderson 35 years ago, thinking it would be a stop on the way to bigger things in their careers. One of his first assignments was covering the Henderson Chamber of Commerce's Citizen of the Year dinner in 1980.
"We had no idea this would be a home," he said in accepting the honor. The Gleaner has been a training ground for multiple winners of the Pulitzer Prize in photography, he said, and had also trained many journalists who had gone on to large metropolitan dailies.
"That was what my ambition was — or at least to work at Sports Illustrated," Chuck said. "But, dad gummit, we made a home of this place."
"And to us, Henderson and The Gleaner is the big thing," Donna added, noting their community here is more precious than journalism's most prestigious honor. "That's the thing that we want. And that's the place we settled and we call home. All of you are our friends and family. This is a very humbling honor."
Former Gleaner editor David Dixon announced the prize, noting it has gone to couples in the past, "and at least twice before, our most honored citizens have come from the danged media.
"I believe that responsible, accurate and fair local journalism enriches us all. We are informed and entertained. We are encouraged to participate in the life of our community and thus the democratic process moves forward.
"Tonight we honor an amazing combination of professional excellence, community spirit, Christian faith and principles in action, family values that embrace blood and beyond and downright good-heartedness.
"After 35 years or so, they are now well-rooted. They could have moved on, worked anywhere ... (but they) chose to make a stand right here. What a stand it is," he said, reciting an abbreviated list of their contributions to the betterment of this community and the world at large.
Those organizations and causes include the Salvation Army, the United Way, the Downtown Henderson Partnership, the W.C. Handy Blues and Barbecue Festival, Bluegrass in the Park, the Henderson Leadership Initiative, the Volunteer and Information Center "and they've worked against substance abuse in Kentucky."
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