Some kind of happiness

This is my last column for LEO Weekly. As of Jan. 1, News Editor Sarah Kelley will take the reins as I move on to a new job as editor of The City Paper in Nashville.

To no one’s surprise, I still have a few things to say. So, as many of you have for five years now, bear with me as I approach my point.

I arrived here as a part-time music editor in January 2005, my brashness and experience significantly out of balance. I was filled with the rare optimism that comes when the world’s rhythm beats to your heart. The words were fluid, as was my burgeoning understanding of this fair River City. Oh sunny day.

For a little more than three years, everything was going right. Then, in May 2008, a new company bought LEO Weekly and decided to make me editor. It was a difficult transition: The loyalists, myself included, were filled with conflict. Quickly, my personal and professional lives melded into a strange conglomeration. From the outset, I managed to miss the greatest bit of advice my mentor — former LEO editor Cary Stemle — gave me as I took his gig: Don’t let it consume you.

Well, it did. As a result, my personal life changed dramatically — some for the better, some not so much. I became one in a long line of mugs to adorn this fine rag. That carries some baggage in this town. Everywhere I went, it seemed, somebody had something to say to me about LEO. I sucked. We were past our prime. We were in our Golden Age. Get a new website. Where is News of the Weird? Ad infinitum.

Meanwhile, we moved LEO Weekly forward into this new, scary age of print(-less) media. We went glossy, which made most of you happy and left a few scorned. We changed the logo. We started blogging with abandon. We reinvested in an emphasis on news, not the daily-grind stuff of other media but enterprise journalism and narrative storytelling, most of it free of political bias, which was another new thing here.

Along the way I developed a persona that you’ve both praised and reviled, a mix of scrappy attitude and pushy persuasion underscored by the knowledge that I’m almost always right (!). This, of course, is not my real self. That is not to say I haven’t always been sincere and honest with you — these are qualities I came by while learning this weird trade under Stemle. As a lot of you know, I will argue with you until we both pass out, regardless of the topic. I am the son of a coolheaded judge and a whip-smart woman of Irish-Catholic descent. It’s a birthright.

But writers develop personas to assert distance. It is a necessary tool for survival, the displaying of a carefully chosen sliver of an overall personality — sometimes for dramatic effect, others to advance a topic.

In the quieter moments, however, this gig has afforded me the first-class opportunity to reflect on our city from a unique perspective. I am informed by the people who give Louisville its greatness, and I listen to them — always. The folks at LEO are some of the most dedicated and crazy junkies and hounds I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. So are the people we cover, despite what some have derided as overly negative coverage. My philosophy is rather simple: If we’re not arguing about something, we’re not advancing anything. For all its elegance and humanity, the world is also ugly and difficult. We have always tried to reflect those poles, and I hope we have succeeded.

But the best teachers have been our vociferous readers. Since we announced the coming changes on Dec. 1, your response has knocked me flat, humbled me, made me cry and laugh, dance and sing (in the privacy of my own home, this being the YouTube generation). Thank you for the phone calls, letters, e-mails, Facebook posts, and comments on blogs and websites. Even when you’re criticizing me or LEO, you’ve made me feel like a part of something meaningful, an ongoing conversation about how we can obtain that which we all seek: the best place to live, the best way to be, the truest versions of ourselves. In other words, some kind of happiness.

In the high moments I have been there with you, and for that I am eternally grateful.