Today, the Northern Kentucky Tribune — affectionately, the Trib — is two years old. Seems like longer, right? Sometimes it does to us too.
We’ve grown, we’re evolving, and we’ve learned something new everyday. As a team, we’re small but growing, and we work hard trying as best as we can to “bring its daily newspaper” back to NKy. Most of you know that most of us touched the Post in some way, that we can wax nostalgic about the “good ol’ days” while pulling air out of that vast cyberspace and mixing it up with “good ol’ stories” you’ve yearned for.
So far, so good — but we’ve a long way to go, and the work is cut out.
Let’s talk a bit, starting with a little perspective from classic literature and Charles Dickens, who of course was a historian, a journalist of sorts and a terrific storyteller. A magical combination.
It Was the Best of Times; It Was the Worst of Times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity . . .
This paragraph is the beginning of a story, as Dickens told a Tale of Two Cities, a story of contrasts, of conflict between hatred and oppression, good and evil, light and darkness, wisdom and folly, a classic tale of class warfare, of human prosperity against human despair. . .
It was a long time ago. Some things never change.
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Terry Hunt, a good ol’ Bellevue kid who definitely made good, becoming chief AP White House correspondent through five presidencies, having a front row seat as our history unfolded — and my good friend (and fellow Kernelite) since college.
He told me his favorite T-Shirt during the latest presidential campaign said this:
Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.
He lamented that his retirement (after nearly 40 years) just happens to coincidently co-incide with a new president and the oncoming of a “post-factual era” where the most important thing is what people make up on social media and can make others accept as fact because they want to and not because they want to know better.
“Post-factual era,” an interesting concept, in the context of our own times when ways we communicate and share information have become more accessible – and ultimately more polarizing.
Facts, an overwhelming onslaught of information without context, overload and confusion, complexities, devil in the details, spinning and perspective, isn’t anything simple? . . . As my friend Biz Cain would say if he were still here: It’s like drinking from a fire hydrant.
I would be the first to say — as I often do — DO NOT believe everything you read ANYWHERE.
Be critical thinkers, that is what is required of citizens in the kind of democracy we have. You don’t get to be disengaged, you don’t get to turn away, you don’t get to pass the buck. You can QUESTION, which you should do — but not so much that you go over to a dark side from which you are not empowered. QUESTION always, but do not DOUBT so much that you trust nothing.
Yes, there’s a lot of noise. But there’s a lot of good stuff too.
My own mantra for 2017:
Let’s all try it.
* * *
For more context, let’s go back a bit farther to some original journalists named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Each of them wrote a “book” chronicling a story about an important historical figure, and their books became part of a bigger book that is one of the most impactful ever written. They were “scribes,” journalists of their day. Their stories about what they saw and experienced are stories a lot of people believe and accept, yet comparing story to story when they write about the very same thing, there are inconsistencies. Really. Inconsistencies.
That is, they don’t all tell what they saw in exactly the same way. Because they saw things differently or had different experiences. And the reason is that they were actual human beings capable of perhaps making honest mistakes – but also able only to pass along what they could see for themselves or get from reliable resources — that is, people they trusted to tell them the truth.
* * *
Like the parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant – a really useful and important concept, by the way – each human being, with his limitations, could feel a certain part of this animal (a trunk versus a tusk, a tail versus a foot) and describe the thing in a very different way.
It’s all about perspective. And even when we have our part just right, there’s more or less or a different part somewhere.
* * *
So what the heck does any of this have to do with the Northern Kentucky Tribune?
I am an unrepentent journalist, as imperfect as any, but dedicated to journalism as the public service it should be in a democratic republic which requires – at its very foundation – an informed and engaged citizenry.
As Ben Franklin said on emerging from the signing of the Constitution, we have a “Republic if we can keep it.”
I’m a true believer. I also believe that change and re-examination and course-correction and all that can be both positive and healthy, that the American people and our foundational institutions will find their way – and their center.
* * *
I lament that The Post died. I lament that my homeplace lost its own center with its demise, that our tribal fire was dimmed. That was not — and is not — the fault of really fine journalists who found other ways to give back to their community in big ways. It’s primarily the fault of a faulty business model that has taken the public out of public service in the business of doing journalism.
Those of us who are doing this thing — this one thing, the “Trib,” — have established it as a nonprofit newspaper. We listened as you told us what you wanted, and we’re doing our best to get there. Two years is next to nothing, and the future looms with growing pains. But even as a nonprofit, we have to pay people to do work and we have to pay our bills.
We’re up for it. For 2017, we’ve set our sights high: At least three more reporters on the street, doubling our reach (yes, there’s a strategic marketing plan), a mobile app, and more. We’d like to do a better job covering government, business, our schools and our courts.
Meantime, we have assembled a great cast of columnists and contributors and a good number of experts who make your newspaper interesting and compelling and infinitely readable. We have reached out to partners and collaborators to create diverse sources for news from all parts of the state. And your team at home — Mark Hansel, Jacob Clabes, Mike Farrell, Vicki Prichard, Terry Boehmker, Gene Clabes, Judy Kincaid and a whole range of freelancers — are doing their darndest to make the Trib as good as possible for now. I’m grateful for their passion — and their hard work.
I’m grateful, too, to the early sponsors who didn’t ask for numbers — Mer Grayson, Central Bank; Candace McGraw, CVG; Garren Colvin, St. Elizabeth; Bill Scheyer, Skyward; Jack Moreland, Southbank; Toyota (then Helen Carroll and Carri Chandler) and the good folks at the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation — who believed in us and understood what it was we needed to do. Today, we’re giving them their numbers and more.
I’d say, all in all, we’re giving you what you asked for. My final message is one in which I will paraphrase the distinguished Mr. Franklin: You have your newspaper. Now you have to step up to keep it.
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