Monday, February 29, 2016

Carl West, who brought Washington ideas to a small-town state capital and its newspaper, dies

State Journal photo by Suzanne Feliciano
Carl West, retired editor of The State Journal in Frankfort, Ky., died Sunday of complications following a stroke. He was 74.

Frankfort, population 25,000, is the fourth smallest state capital in the U.S., so The State Journal is a community paper that covers state government, the top local employer. West came to the daily after an award-winning career as a Washington reporter, and brought a hard-nosed attitude to political and government coverage, displayed most publicly in his role as the recurring panelist on what was the state's best public-affairs interview show.

West, a native of Northern Kentucky, brought something else to the state from Washington: the idea for a book fair like the one he helped start as a member of the National Press Club. With the newspaper's help, the Kentucky Book Fair became an institution in the state, and is being taken over by the Kentucky Humanities Council, headed by former U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler of Versailles.

Ed Staats, retired Kentucky chief of The Associated Press told The State Journal in 2003, when they went into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame together, that West “set a high journalistic standard for the countless reporters, editors and photographers he has hired over the years. In addition, Carl brought a deep knowledge and a strong interest in politics to the job – essential elements for a strong newspaper in a capital city.” For The State Journal's obituary of West, click here.

West's leadership of the book fair, and his strong career in journalism, won him last year's Al Smith Award for public service through community journalism, given by the Bluegrass Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, publisher of The Rural Blog. West struggled to overcome health issues to attend the awards dinner, but gave a rip-roaring defense of public-service journalism in his acceptance speech, his final public remarks. Here's a video:


Bob Trapp said...

I was fortunate to meet Carl at the Rural Journalism banquet last fall. His love of books and reading was only superseded by his love of journalism, good journalism. When he retired the news business lost a strong journalist and society has now lost a fighter for the little guy and a strong advocate for reading and books, those things made of paper, people used to hold in their hands.

Robert Trapp
Editor/Publisher Rio Grande SUN
Espanola, N.M.

Pat Layton said...

Carl West was my friend. I met him right after he came to Frankfort and I was a candidate.He gave his all to journalism. He will be missed by all of us here in Frankfort. Hr definitely
left his mark.