SPJ Awards

I know that the readers of this site are among the few interested in the results of our city’s journalism awards competition, so here’s a brief report on the latest, presented at the Henry Clay Thursday night.

I was shocked to learn that in the Metro Newspapers division, my story for LEO entitled “On with the Show” won first place.  My thanks to editor Cary Stemle for his help with and agreement to publish the piece. The category was “Business Reporting.” LEO’s Michael Lindenberger also won for Minority Affairs reporting and the column writing award went to Billy Reed for his work at LEO. Hmmm.

None of the three of us are currently regular LEO contributors, but I don’t blame that totally on the paper. It’s just an observation that LEO is a great publication for good journalism, and I wish it could do more of it. Other LEO winners include Cary for Editorial and Headline writing, Geoff Oliver Bugbee and Angela Shoemaker for photography, Sherry Deatrick for Review/Criticism and Buddy Schneider for Page Design.

I’ve got some other comments, including some on the interesting winners in TV, but for now I’ll just publish this list of winners.

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Coverage of Kingdom Accident Recalls 1994

I’ve been watching the media’s coverage of the tragic accident at Kentucky Kingdom, and can’t help but recall how a similar mishap precipitated one of the lengthiest and contentious media defamation cases in local history. As I wrote in LEO last year, a court ruled that WHAS-TV was guilty of, among other things, airing false and damaging information in a series of stories about the Kentucky Kingdom park after a 1994 accident. It hurt its own cause two years later when it aired a series by anchor Doug Proffitt, even as the station and the park were battling in court. As a result, WHAS-TV’s owners paid a $7.4 million judgment to a group representing the local owners of the park, who later sold the park to Six Flags.

So when it was reported last Thursday that a local girl had her legs severed on one of the park’s rides, the reporting of the incident seemed to me to be a little cautious, with reporters making sure they had their facts right and that eyewitness interview subjects were legitimate. And when the park’s spokesperson made statements about the victim, refusing to identify her because she was a minor, no one in the media undertook extraordinary measures to find out who it was. They even bought park spokesman Carolyn McLean‘s story (reported in the C-J) that she didn’t know where the girl was from a day after the accident.

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Scary: This Guy Almost Won

The C-J’s Joe Gerth finally got to the bottom of the Steve Henry controversy at the University of Louisville, and he paints a scary picture. I thought the Courier’s profile of Henry was enough to persuade anyone reading it to vote for someone else, anyone else, in the May 22 Democratic primary for Governor, but Henry still managed more than 60,000 votes, close to one in five votes cast. In the first polls that came out on the race early in the year, Henry was in the lead. He finished third.
Gerth, through an open records request, found that U of L officials have been trying to get rid of Henry since 2002, and that serious charges against Henry have been leveled by senior officials and residents. But Henry, though he knew of the circumstances and charges against him throughout the 2007 campaign, continued to deny that he was fired and even claimed in campaign literature that he was still on the U of L faculty, until it was pointed out by the media.

As usual, Henry had his excuses lined up when Gerth confronted him, blaming his problems on others. He claimed during the campaign that he left U of L to focus on his campaign, when in fact he had been terminated for, among other charges, missing surgical procedures by residents under his supervision and not being available while on call.

He went after John R. Johnson, chair of U of L’s orthopedic department. According to Gerth, Henry said “Johnson had overreacted and that many on-call doctors at University Hospital are hard to reach.”

Really? I don’t buy it that many doctors ignore their pages when they know they’re on call, but Henry would have us believe it’s a frequent occurrence. Henry told Gerth that missing six of seven calls a year is no big deal.

That this information, released after the C-J’s open records request, come out after the primary is just wrong. While Henry’s teflon coating allowed him to remain a factor in the governor’s race despite serious allegations against him by a former employee and evidence of misuse of campaign funds. Had the information from U of L been available in March, Henry clearly might have been forced to drop out of the primary.

Cabo Wabo: Clear Winner

For the dozen or so members of the Cabo Wabo board of directors, once the bi-annual party starts, the work is done.

At Saturday’s Summer Fling at Bowman Field, about a thousand folks showed up for the party — to drink beer and wine and listen to Thumper and the Plaid Rabbits. Cabo Wabo’s board selects a charitable organization to do the heavy lifting of hosting the event, then lets it keep 100 percent of the proceeds.

I’ve been to a lot of charity events, but this one has simplicity as its core and the number one goal of actually making sure its charity makes money — while everyone has a good time.  This time, Maryhurst, which serves children with severe emotional difficulties, provided 40 volunteers to serve beer, collect admission and park cars. In the end, the effort will net the group as much as $20,000, according to treasurer Jeff McLennan. Nearly a thousand people showed up, he said, and 300 of them also brought stuffed bears for Ardi’s Bears, another worthwhile charity.

Cabo Wabo (Charity and Benefit Organization, We’re All Better Off) was started as a party in founder Alan Lewis’ basement in 1993. Since then, 24 events have raised nearly $400,000 for various groups, and a lot of folks have had a good time at Bowman Field.

GSA Program is All Good

There’s a great article by Andrew Adler in the June 18 Courier-Journal about the Governors Scholars for the Arts program. Adler’s piece highlights the program ‘s encouragement of young artists to learn and work during an intense three-week camp.

Say what you will about state government, but this is a program that pays dividends in many ways, not the least of which is developing a growing colony of the state’s best artists. I’m proud to say that my son Nick, a rising senior at Manual High School, is among the 226 high schoolers attending the camp at Transylvania University. I dropped him off there on Sunday.

There’s a lot to impress when you spend a few hours with these kids. In my few hours on campus, I saw a level of excitement and enthusiasm for the program that’s rare. These kids know they’re among a privileged few, and not one thinks of three weeks of study as a burden. They’ll be challenged, but I doubt there are any slackers in the bunch.

Graduates of the program have opportunities to earn college scholarships, and that was the aspect of the program that initially got me excited. But then I started learning about the “New Media” program that Nick was in, and found out he’ll be editing video and doing a claymation production. There are field trips and opportunities to work with high-tech equipment. I think I heard that half of the graduates have gone on to careers in the arts, and the program has been around for 20 years.

Adler wrote that much of the project’s $450,000 budget comes from the state, and corporations kick in some support as well. If you qualify, and fewer than one in six applicants are accepted, it doesn’t cost students a dime.  When politicians talk about their ideals for education, the Governors Scholars for the Arts program should be at the top of the list of good things happening in Kentucky.

Survey Says: No more Dick Wilson stock reports

My friend Dick Wilson is known for simply being the best-connected individual in many social circles, for his numerous generous acts for charities, and as a leading stockbroker at UBS. But Wilson’s name is familiar to public radio listeners for his daily stock reports, which have aired in one form or another for nearly two decades on WFPL-FM.

Citing the results of a reader survey, the station ended the reports May 1. In an e-mail, WFPL’s Jon Hoban wrote that “the growth and availability of stock sources has diminisehd the need for the report on the radio.” Hoban wrote that the reader survey showed little support for continuing the stock listings in the afternoon.

I spoke with Wilson about it at the Cabo Wabo charity event June 16 – where he was helping to collect stuffed animals for he and his wife’s Ardi’s Bears charity – and he was sorry to see his radio run end, but still a supporter of public radio.

“In 18 years, I don’t remember a single response I got to it that helped me in business,” Wilson said, while adding that he got asked about his reports all the time. But he added that he really enjoyed reporting on the stock market — mainly on companies with local ties, like Papa John’s, Brown-Forman, Ford, Republic Bank and Churchill Downs. He said he may continue to do an occasional special report. Wilson bought recording equipment some years ago and has a mini-studio in his Summit-area UBS office.

Maybe those reports will re-appear in the local market, in one way or another.

The V.V. in USAToday

The ‘Ville Voice was featured in a USAToday Web column Friday for its blog of the Louisville-Rice game from the College World Series.  The V.V. was apparently the only media outlet blogging the game live (from my living room) on Friday, as the Courier-Journal chose to follow the NCAA rules and bypass the opportunity. The USAToday mention fueled one of the V.V.’s biggest traffic days in history.

I wasn’t available on Sunday for Louisville’s impressive 12-4 win over Mississippi State. But I think doing the game Friday proved my point, which is this — the NCAA is in for a whale of a battle if it plans to take on independent bloggers across the U.S. to protect its rights to “live representation” of games it sells rights to. It’s a lose-lose proposition for the organization, which will either have to come up with some new enforcement policy or prepare for a long-term battle against a difficult-to-determine enemy. It may be able to restrict newspapers, over which it holds the ability to withhold credentials, from blogging its events, but if it were to choose to sue independent bloggers, then things will get interesting.

I think the NCAA will continue to enforce its anti-blogging rules in press boxes, and until someone starts making real money blogging games independently (highly unlikely) it’s a dead issue. I do wish the C-J hadn’t backed down so easily after its blogger was ejected from the Patterson Stadium press box during the Oklahoma State game, but the local paper apparently decided it wasn’t up for the fight. It had an opportunity to engage the NCAA in an interesting legal argument, but didn’t.