On Media: Local case makes headlines

When she came to Louisville in 2003, WHAS-TV’s Renee Murphy was assigned the education beat. Among her first stories was a discrimination case winding through the federal court system, known then as the McFarland case. Three years later, Murphy found herself peering from behind a curtain, shoulder to shoulder with dozens of national reporters, barely getting a glimpse of Justice Samuel Alito as he and the other Supreme Court justices listened to two Louisville attorneys present arguments in the case. The “overflow area” for media put Murphy in the middle of a circus she was thrilled to join.

From her vantage point, she could hear, but not see, what was going on in the courtroom. She was surprised the attorneys, Ted Gordon and Frank Mellen, engaged in so much debate with the justices, and at how coolly and calmly they argued. As soon as Gordon or Mellen began speaking, she said, one of the justices would interrupt with a question.

“I didn’t expect the justices would just jump right in,” she said, adding that justice Anthony Kennedy was by far the toughest inquisitor.
It was good to see WHAS-TV, as well as other local media, give the case prominent coverage. Murphy reported live from Washington on Monday, the day of the arguments. She said it was by far the biggest story she’s covered.

“I hope people realize how important it is, because it will establish standards for how race is used in every aspect of our country,” said Murphy, who worked at stations in Greenville, Miss., and Youngstown, Ohio, before moving to Louisville. “There is no set plan for integration and how it should be done.”

The challenge in covering a case like this is making it relevant for individuals — to help people understand its potential long-term effect. I’m not sure how well average folks understand the case, but local media coverage at least made them aware of it. The Court is unlikely to rule on the case until next spring at the earliest.
(Murphy will moderate a panel discussion tomorrow that features attorneys Gordon and Mellen, during the annual meeting of the Women Lawyers Association of Jefferson Count at Galt House East. Call 779-8410 for info.)

Making a high-rise remarkable
National marketing guru Seth Godin says selling and marketing an idea has become much more complicated than 20 years ago. Back then a company with products to sell simply bought time on TV.
Godin, author of seven best-selling books on marketing plus a popular industry blog, was the star attraction for a hand-picked group of about 80 local business types invited to Waterfront Park Place on Thursday. He was chosen by CarryOn Communications, the building’s marketing agency, because his ideas fit with the message of innovation they’re touting for the downtown high-rise.

Getting him to come to Louisville to talk with these entrepreneurial types was like bringing Donald Trump in to chat with local Realtors. CarryOn’s Tricia Milford-Hoyt said guests were chosen based on their entrepreneurial spirit; no one would speak up for doing things the old way at this party. They wanted folks in charge of companies infused with a hipness who would jump on these new ideas and talk them up on the cocktail circuit and in corporate suites. People who, if they had $400,000 to $2 million to spend, might just do the unexpected and buy a condo on the riverfront or open a retail shop there.

Godin’s advice is simply to be remarkable — to do something that gets people to remark on whatever you’re doing, whether selling soap or high-end real estate. Cutting through all of today’s marketing clutter is difficult, because people have become adept at avoiding marketers, who must often try to “sell what people don’t want to people who don’t want them.”

Bringing in Godin was a remarkable thing for Waterfront Park Place to do. Everything, down to the upscale bottled water and elaborately packaged box lunches, seemed focused on generating buzz for the building, where a community of innovators is being built, one remarkable address at a time.

Does irony play at The C-J?
Here’s a postscript on last week’s column about The Courier-Journal’s new emphasis on the importance of the Web. A video clip featuring C-J staffers having some musical fun with the new policies at a holiday party was posted on YouTube last week. The clip showed staffers singing improvised lyrics to Christmas carols. The lyrics were really funny — at least I thought so. But management apparently didn’t think so, because the clip was removed from YouTube the next day. I can only assume that was ordered by someone at the paper who failed to appreciate satire. It shows that “embracing the Web” has its limits. Does anyone else see the irony here?

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