Unless you, like Fairdale Bigfoot, live under a rock, you heard the news that Gannett absolutely gutted the Courier-Journal yesterday, laying off 50 employees, 24 of them editorial staff. Goodbye Velocity, goodbye a lot of the Neighborhood coverage. Arts and uber-local reporting... gutted.
As Roommate tweeted today: "From out here in the docks, it looks like the @courierjournal has become 'Sports Unillustrated.'"
And apologies to the terrific sports staff at the C-J, especially those I am "twitter friends" with, but yes... Roommate is right. I don't know if any of the sports staff got the sack, but it has long irked me that when you pull up the C-J website, the very first section is sports. Before local news. Shows you where the editorial priorities are. And I love sports, I do. But that's embarrassing.
I'm not fool enough to believe that the C-J made that layout choice in a vacuum. I know I live in a sports-obsessed town, and most of the time I'm pleased as punch that I do. But it is a decision, and it's a terrible one in my opinion. If newspapers were all about catering to the masses, every paper would be People Magazine, or at best USA Today-- all Kardashians and Fantasy Football.
Anyway, based on the unscientific evidence of my Twitter feed, lots of Louisvillagers were just heartbroken about this decision. And I was surprised how very hard I took it myself. I only know one of the laid-off editorial staffers (I think) personally. So this wasn't about just hurting very badly for a friend (although, I was). And honestly, I haven't subscribed to the paper for years (before you say I'm part of the problem: [a] we all know subscription money doesn't keep papers in business and [b] I read it regularly online). I've always been disappointed with the C-J, especially coming here from New Orleans when the Times-Picayune was cranking out its post-Katrina consistent brilliance.
But I felt sad for personal reasons too. My first job out of college was as the Assistant to the Editor of this newspaper. (I'd never been to the website before. I briefly got insanely excited when I saw the archive section... but the archives start 10 years after I worked there, give or take.) In addition to running around doing crazy errands for the Diva Editor, I also worked as an entertainment reporter. My "beat"? Foxwoods Casino. Highlights of my job: interviewing Tom Jones and Ted Neeley ("Jesus" from Jesus Christ Superstar), writing my only front-page piece about the music scene in Mystic, CT, and covering the Mashantucket Pequot tribe's cultural news. I hated every part of my job except the arts reporting. I loved the arts reporting. And occasionally when I get antsy about my chosen field (as I am right now), I kick myself for not pursuing that as my career (hence, this blog).
And Gannett mauled its arts reporting today.
A great city deserves a great publication. And we just don't have one.
Normally I would say: "I may be biased because I know this person personally and can't distance myself from her work." But no. I won't add that disclaimer. One of the laid-off editorial staff was Erin Keane, and I can empirically say that she was one of the best, if not the best, writers at the C-J. Her arts reporting was grown-up, sophisticated writing for readers who were invested in the fabulous Louisville arts scene. Her articles were beautifully-conceived, well-researched, and often challenging. I will fess up to having to employ Dictionary.com a couple of times when her diction eluded me. When I finally met her after reading her reporting for a while, I was honestly a little fan-girly. Hell, how many times over the years have I written a theater review and linked to her review and said, "I can't say it better than Erin Keane already did"??
For the C-J to lay off its most literate and literary writer?-- it's an insult to the readership.
My heart broke for her, personally. But my heart breaks for this city.
I'll say it again. A great city deserves a great publication. And we just don't have one.
The LEO is... fine. I admit, I read it rarely. I don't know what the general public sentiment is, but my gut says that it went a bit south post-Stephen George and when it went glossy (and when it lost Phillip M. Bailey to WFPL). Louisville Magazine has a stable of solid writers but only features a handful of good articles each month. I don't think anyone would argue with me if I said that the magazine was 85% advertising of some kind. There's some quality reporting being done on some of the local blogs, but no one in their right mind would call it quality writing.
It was a sad day for Louisville. And a disconcerting day for me. I never in a blue moon thought that I would remake myself as an arts reporter this late in my life, but to discover that the newspaper in my city had such a low regard for arts and local reporting... terrible.