When I first moved to Louisville about eight years ago to work for LEO, there were online skirmishes and sniping between members of different local media outlets, sometimes hashed out on #loumedia Twitter, other times through various other visceral social media storms.
Some of it was directed at LEO for turbulent changes. Some of it was thrown out by LEO. Some of it had nothing to do with LEO at all. Some of it had a rightful point, and, at other times, it was just meaningless and petty. But, there’s no sense in bringing back up the names, or circumstances, or history because that’s not the goal of this column — the goal of this column is to shine some praise on local journalists, because for being a mid-sized market, during a financially devastating time, in an industry that has had a doomsday clock ticking all century, Louisville has an abundance of hardworking talent. And through the pandemic and the protests and the political instability, those people stepped up and reached an even higher level. Then, a funny thing seemed to happen, as the job became situationally tougher, and we saw each working harder, in more dangerous circumstances: We stopped trashing each other over the small things. I guess there’s something about seeing your peers run from tear gas, or sit through a current school board meeting, or go out into the field with a deadly virus floating around, or deal with someone like ex-Gov. Matt Bevin, that skyrockets the old respect meter.
There’s not enough room in this column to shout out individual names, but I want to run through some of the organizations. The Courier Journal won a Pulitzer Prize in 2020 for Breaking News — beating out national outlets like the New York Times — for their coverage of Bevin’s pardons. A year later they finished as a finalist for two more Pulitzers for their coverage of the slaying of Breonna Taylor and the protests that followed. Without their early, pivotal coverage of both of those events, information probably would have been buried, and narratives could have turned out very differently, even fizzling and fading early on. The investigations by them, and by other local outlets about the Taylor killing, likely changed society, as her story traveled across the world.
During the protests, other outlets, such as WFPL and the television news stations, engaged in exhaustive coverage, marching for miles and giving the public direct insight. I once watched former WDRB reporter Chad Mills cover a march until 2 a.m., from downtown, to The Highlands, back downtown and into the West End. Former WAVE 3 News reporter Kaitlin Rust and her camera crew were shot with pepper balls by an LMPD officer on air and kept reporting. Those are just two examples that epitomize the sort of work that was happening.
WDRB’s investigations and hard news writing have also been solid.
Louisville Public Media covers everything in the city with thoughtfulness across several mediums.
Louisville Magazine continues to produce amazing long form pieces.
My co-workers at LEO Weekly have worked tirelessly to add depth and nuance to the big issues and the under-covered arts, turning out everything from a national prize-winning series on the protests to multiple stories about how the pandemic affected our entertainment stages.
I know I’m missing a lot of stuff. This is a terribly condensed version of the feats of local journalism, but in an age where reporters get constantly berated online, I wanted to throw some much deserved positivity toward the industry.
Despite the lack of pay, the instability, the relentless push for more analytics, the hours, the noise of the internet, the fact that a United States president weaponized half the country to hate your occupation, you continue to show up. And it matters.
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