My LEO Life: 2006 divided by two

column-rick-reddingimg_assist_view.jpgI’m only six months into this gig as a LEO columnist, so to do an annual media review seems a bit too much. So let’s call this my semi-annual look at what mattered in local meda.

The story of the year, no doubt, was the technology boom that moved news of all types online. If TIME made YOU its Person of the Year, YOU said you wanted to get your news online.

So our newspapers and television stations beefed up their Web sites, asking citizens repeatedly to turn to the Web for immediacy and detail. The Courier began airing video, while television stations sharpened their online reporting, and one even hired an established writer, Billy Reed, to post columns online. The state’s most-read blogger, Mark Nickolas, made news himself when Gov. Ernie Fletcher blocked state employee access to his

Online was without doubt where the news was in 2006. Nickolas, along with WHAS-TV’s Mark Hebert, picked up political junkies as readers during the hotly-contested election, while various other voices sought the same sort of following. Republican-oriented bloggers attempted, mostly failing, to drum up interest. LEO finally got in on the act with the Lip, though it was late in the year. I created the blog you’re reading as a way to fill in what doesn’t make the paper, and ultimately to see if I could create my own audience.

I wrote about some of the downsides of the blogging craze. After the tragic plane crash in Lexington in August, online reports from bloggers and established media got some important facts wrong, such as reporting the death of a prominent woman who was very much alive. It was a case of mistaken identity, but the perception among some that Human Rights Commission chair Priscilla Johnson had perished led at least one reader to write a remembrance of her. The rush to publish, I wrote, led to stories not properly vetted or checked for accuracy. WHAS-TV general manager Bob Klingle defended the rush, saying that the audience wants the news first, and will go where they get news first. He said WHAS-TV has 160,000 online viewers who advertisers covet.

My first column focused on the $7.4 million check written by the Belo Corp., which abandoned its appeals in defense of a 1994 report on the safety of the Kentucky Kingdom roller coaster. “When they made a mistake, rather than correct and apologize, they went on a jihad against us, and that’s just wrong,” said former park president Ed Hart, who purused the case for 12 years.

When I noticed all the murals going up on the sides of local buildings, it occurred to me that LEO readers might to have some input on the selection of those getting “mural treatment.” Editor Cary Stemle’s suggestion of Hunter S. Thompson hasn’t gained momentum yet, but that story may not be over.

Much of the focus in media is on personalities, and the media column looked into the new boss at the Public Radio Partnership, Donovan Reynolds. I challenged new C-J sports columnist Eric Crawford to be provocative. I even chastised John Yarmuth, early in his Congressional campaign, to answer his critics. I applauded the work of WDRB GM Bill Lamb for his straight-ahead on-air editorials.

Unfortunately, this was a year in which more news was made of departures in media, such as the Clear Channel housecleaning that claimed on-air talent including Doug Ormay and Night Train Lane. Billy Reed’s controversial departure from the pages of LEO may have been my biggest media disappointment of the year.

Much of that media talent was headed to the corporate world, as I ponted out in a column spotlighting a special report by WLKY-TV’s John Boel. It turns out that, (surprise!), former journalists who work in public relations make more money and work less than their media counterparts. At the end of the year, I reported that two of the C-J’s top reporters (Chris Poynter and Kay Stewart) had moved over to this “dark side.”

The news in television wasn’t so much about personnel changes (not a single significant anchor change) but in the style and choices made in coverage. I criticized WHAS-TV for its “Breaking News” promotions, and for pursuing a story in which it sent a station employee to Atherton High School to see if he could “break in.” Whether local stations listen too much to their consultants (people want weather, not politics) was the topic of a lively SPJ debate in October.

Louisville’s status in the world’s news is an ongoing topic, and I wrote about two instances that put our city on a national stage — the football Cardinals’ back-to-back appearances in ESPN prime time, and the desegregation case involving Jefferson County Schools that landed in the U.S. Supreme Court. Here at the blog, I found some of the more amusing jokes from the comedy circuit about Tara Conner, the former Miss Kentucky whose New York nightlife almost get her stripped of her Miss USA crown.

All that — and just in six months. I’m looking forward to more in 2007, and I want your help. My pledge is to make “the ‘Ville Voice” worth a daily stop in 2007, and will push readers to provide feedback, ideas and debate. So make a comment here when it moves you, or write me at

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