My move to Lexington almost 22 years ago was supposed to be just a stepping stone in my career.
Instead, I found my footing and settled in.
Not only is Central Kentucky a comfortable place to raise a family, this state is full of challenges, opportunities, beauty, despair, outsized characters and small-town charms. In other words: a journalist’s dream.
And as I soon retire here, I appreciate just how fortunate I have been to spend half my career serving as the Herald-Leader editorial page editor.
I say “serving” because nearly every career journalist considers the work less of a job and more of a calling. That takes a certain amount of ego, I guess. But the role of watchdog in a democratic society can often be thankless, especially when challenging powerful interests.
Yet, few jobs allow you to work beside so many committed, talented people or to meet others in the community just as dedicated to making a difference in their own ways. Not a bad deal, if you have to work for a living.
For many decades, the Herald-Leader editorial page has been nationally recognized for impactful journalism. We have upheld that legacy by continuing to demand government accountability, as well as encouraging more citizen engagement.
In my years, this page has promoted, defended or supported a range of causes: the fairness ordinance, smoking ban, investment in affordable housing and fighting homelessness, Medicaid expansion, a people-friendly urban core, farmland preservation, the much-welcomed bipartisan focus on economic development in Eastern Kentucky, environmental protection, a science-based response to the opioid epidemic and, always, education at every level.
We sometimes ended up on the losing sides of community debates. But it was not really a loss because we opened our pages to passionate discussion, becoming the equivalent of the old-time public square, where anyone could climb a platform and have a say.
We printed the findings of citywide discussions about eliminating racism; turned pages over to high-school students to write on violence and other concerns; showcased grassroots efforts by advocates and young enterpreneuers in Eastern Kentucky; and let stakeholders in Lexington’s East End neighborhood put their cards on the table.
And I appreciate the decades of community columnists who trusted us to help them present diverse viewpoints. Some became elected officials, authors, community activists and even people who get recognized in grocery stores. I applaud their willingness to share and their courage to withstand public criticism.
I do wish I was leaving at a time of more financial stability for media companies. Fewer people now prefer newspapers, and ways to make money online are dominated by tech conglomerates. I can’t even escape big tech in my own family: Google pays one granddaughter for her YouTube channel; another works for Apple; the fifth-grader has multiple electronic devices in his face at all times.
But they, and likely most young people, want to know what’s happening around them. That means there’s still a need for those who report, analyze and opine — however information is disseminated.
General Manager/Editor Peter Baniak, Associate Editorial Page Editor Jamie Lucke and Editorial Cartoonist Joel Pett will ensure the paper continues to promote progress, as well as publish other voices.
So, keep climbing up on that town-square platform to offer expertise, ideas, complaints, suggestions and even an occasional rant.
I will be in the crowd, cheering you on.