We at LEO offer our sincerest congratulations to The Courier Journal for winning its 11th Pulitzer Prize, this one for studiously and unrelentingly chronicling the avalanche of last-minute pardons and commutations handed out by the corrupt, craven and mercenary Gov.-reject Matt Bevin.
We are fortunate as a city to have it as our paper. In a poignant tribute and plea, former CJ reporter Howard Fineman wrote in The Washington Post that the paper’s latest plaudit “should remind us (and surely was meant to remind us), that what we call ‘local’ journalism is profoundly essential to self-government as the Founders designed it, and to the American way of life.” He cited a study that found nearly 1,800 newspapers have closed since 2004, and he said, “Virtually all of the remaining 7,000 are thinner and weaker than ever.” He implored you to subscribe to the paper because, as the op-ed’s headline said: “My former newspaper is struggling — and is more important than ever.”
This is all true, but there is more.
What Fineman’s op-ed neglected to underscore is that the news media landscape extends far beyond daily newspapers and must include alternative weeklies.
Alt-weeklies also provide “local journalism” and are “profoundly essential.” They are critically important because they work in the margins and areas where newspapers do not or cannot. They provide free-to-read accounts of a community’s culture, ethos and priorities. Good ones are not substitutes for daily newspapers, although their coverage and stories may overlap.
At LEO, our goal since John Yarmuth founded it in 1990 has been to dive deeply into areas that The CJ and other mainstream news media have neglected, dismissed or overlooked. Accordingly, LEO is the authority on local music, theater and visual arts. We publish A&E guides twice a year. Every issue of LEO has (or had) at least two food and drink stories, including reviews, a beer column and insiders’ views on the service industry. We offer a range of commentary, which, admittedly, skews left but also has included conservative and right-leaning views (such as a column from, gasp — Mitch McConnell). We print op-eds that The CJ would not, such as from Black Lives Matter. We champion equality and provide a voice to the LGBTQ+ community. Our printed and online lists celebrate the best things to do in the region to help you plan your week and weekends. We also publish news stories that are written differently (we’d like to say, more interestingly) than a newspaper would run. They include primary source stories (ﬁrst-person) and stories told through alternative (there is that word again) formats. Our core topics include those that the daily paper rarely touches, such as urban planning, race relations, labor and the environment (since The CJ’s ace enviro reporter moved on). And, they include media criticism (we are looking at you CJ, but we have given ourselves thorns) because who else is going to do it?
In short, Louisville has at least six ways you can get your news, counting TV and radio.
We try to not be like any of them.
We try not to tell the same story.
We try to be more interesting and less predictable.
And the hundreds of thousands of people who read us and click on our stories tell us we are doing something right.
Alas, LEO, as you might imagine, also has been crippled by this virus, as have alt-weeklies across the nation.
LEO is free to pick up and relies almost entirely on advertising. No subscriptions. No grants. No membership drive for donations twice a year.
The backbone of our advertising is entertainment (think: music, ballet, theater and visual art) and food and drink. Similarly, we distribute to places where people enjoy those activities and relax (think: bars, coffee shops, restaurants, etc.), and those have been closed. LEO already runs lean and has not had to furlough any editorial staff — yet — but our editorial budget has been cut by three-quarters. LEO has been online-only mostly since the epidemic began. Starting with this issue, our goal is to publish a print edition every other week. Fortunately, we have been an outlier among alt-weeklies, so far.
A story from NiemanLab listed more than 40 alt-weeklies that had taken steps to survive within just days of us all realizing this pandemic was real.
Many suspended print publication, others furloughed staff and, still, others asked for donations.
They included Pittsburgh City Paper, which launched a membership program: “in order to help ﬁght some of these losses, with the hope that readers who depend on our daily coverage of local news, arts, music, food, and entertainment recognize the importance in the work we do to keep the city informed and want us to continue.”
We like that idea!
Won’t you please consider helping to fund LEO’s mission by underwriting a reporter or providing financial support for more stories?
You could sponsor a reporter to cover a speciﬁc topic or issue, such as visual arts or theater or labor… or poverty… or the environment or… you name it. Perhaps you want to sponsor a weekly column on dance or jazz, or you want to underwrite a series of stories on land use in The West End. You would not have a say in exactly what we write and what gets printed, but you would see more coverage in the area you have selected.
If you are interested, please contact us at: leoweekly.com
And, please, if you value LEO and want us to continue to survive and thrive, continue picking up the papers, continue sharing stories on social media and consider advertising if you do not already.
As always but particularly now, thank you for reading LEO, and thanks to all of you who have emailed and called to ask when you would see another printed edition on the news stands.