Herald-Leader reporter Bill Estep has won the East Kentucky Leadership Foundation's 2015 media award.
The award is given in recognition of outstanding achievement in the field of news publication, broadcasting, technological innovation or digital communication.
Estep, in his 30th year with the newspaper, has spent 20 years as chief of the Herald-Leader's south-central Kentucky bureau in Somerset. He was to receive the award Thursday night in Pikeville during a banquet at the foundation's annual conference.
Estep has written hundreds of stories about issues important to Eastern Kentucky, including drug abuse, government corruption, education and the decline of the coal industry.
He was a lead reporter on the newspaper's 2003 series "Prescription for Pain," which detailed the extent of drug abuse in rural communities, examined failings in regional approaches to enforcement and treatment, and disclosed how Medicaid spending was helping to supply drug dealers with narcotics but was doing little to help pay for addicts' treatment.
U.S. Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Somerset, cited the series' findings in creating UNITE, a multimillion-dollar regional initiative aimed at improving drug enforcement, treatment and community education throughout southeastern Kentucky.
More recently, Estep was a primary author of the newspaper's "50 Years of Night" series in 2012 and 2013, a 13-chapter series detailing Eastern Kentucky's continued struggles 50 years after a book by country lawyer Harry M. Caudill— Night Comes to the Cumberlands — focused the nation on its problems
The series was a catalyst for creation of the Shaping Our Appalachian Region initiative, which was formed in 2013 by Rogers and Gov. Steve Beshear to develop strategies for expanding and diversifying Eastern Kentucky's beleaguered economy.
Estep, who grew up in Pulaski County, graduated from Western Kentucky University in 1983 with a journalism degree and worked at papers in Harlan County and Pulaski County before joining the Herald-Leader in 1985.