Sunday, July 21, 2019

Editor of Louisville newspaper reaches out to Eastern Ky.

Rick Green
The Courier Journal was among the last newspapers to close its news bureaus in the far reaches of states the size of Kentucky and larger. That was in 2005. Since then, the paper's reporters made occasional forays from Louisville to cover issues in the great rural swath that runs from the Appalachian ridges to the Mississippi River, but no longer is there regular coverage of the coal industry, poverty and local politics that connected those areas to the rest of the state. The vacuum was felt especially in Eastern Kentucky, where those issues remain critical. Last month the paper's editor, Richard Green, marked his one-year anniversary in the job with a trip to the region, and now he's written a long story about it.

"I want to ensure the Courier Journal fully understands both the progress being made in Eastern Kentucky and the longstanding challenges still confronting those who live there," Green wrote. "That knowledge is essential in shaping our news coverage of November’s gubernatorial election and next year’s races involving President Donald Trump and Sen. Mitch McConnell, as well as surfacing issues our newly reconfigured editorial board should consider."

Here are two key passages of Green's piece:
Everyone wanted to talk politics, but few wanted to put their names next to the opinions they shared.
As one store owner in Pikeville told me: “Both sides so dislike each other and the politicians on both sides. I risk losing business if I say anything negative or positive about either Trump or the Democrats. And trust me, I need every dollar.”
There are many frustrated voters in Eastern Kentucky, I surmised. Despite polls that indicate President Trump remains highly popular in the state, I was surprised how many took swipes at him and his 2016 promise that mines would reopen and coal jobs would return.
A Prestonsburg merchant told me, “We had Hillary Clinton tell us she was going to put miners out of work, and Trump promised us we’d be better off with him. What choice did we have? Our desperation for jobs and a better economy became a throwaway line in his campaign speeches to get elected. He made promises he has not kept. But who will be a better alternative than Trump in 2020? Some crazy liberal who doesn’t reflect our values?” . . .
One other sentiment — perhaps stronger than any other — emerged over the four days: There is a new entrepreneurial spirit sweeping across Eastern Kentucky. New jobs are being created. New careers are being charted. New companies are being launched. . . . Many want to move beyond the unforgiving statistics on everything from unemployment to drug addiction that remind of the challenges still handcuffing Eastern Kentucky." Gary Ball, editor of the Mountain Citizen newspaper in Inez, told Green, “People are tired of being defined strictly by drugs and wars on poverty.”

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