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Kentucky by Heart: Like most things that change as we grow older, taste in news is no exception

By Steve Flairty
NKyTribune columnist

Recently, while trading sections of the Lexington-Herald back and forth with my wife while eating a leisurely breakfast, I remarked that I found it interesting how, over a lifetime, my preferences have changed regarding what parts of the newspaper I most like to read. Soon, I began to ruminate over the idea, long after Suzanne focused her mind on something else. Often, my ruminations turn into a column, and this is an example.

I took to reading quite early as a child, spending every minute allowable in the tiny school library at Grant’s Lick Elementary and regularly ordering from the Scholastic Books selections my teachers shared with the students. But that wasn’t nearly enough reading for me, so when the Cincinnati Post and Times Star/Kentucky Post arrived on Mondays through Saturdays, I was on it. On Sunday, when our BIG Cincinnati Enquirer arrived, I went into overtime devouring it.

Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of seven books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and six in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #5,” was released in 2019. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly KyForward and NKyTribune columnist and a former member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.”

Before my dad turned me into a Reds fan in the mid-1960s as I closed in on my teen years, the first place my eyes and fingers traveled were to the funny pages (the Enquirer’s was in technicolor!). I didn’t need a chair and table to read my “paper.” In those days, I was on the floor, sometimes on my knees and sometimes on my side. I usually read Nancy first, and I liked Peanuts and Alley Oop (a caveman). Oddly, another huge favorite was There Oughta Be a Law, written mainly for adults, which dealt with irony and sometimes hypocrisy in everyday life events.

But by the time Pete Rose, Frank Robinson, and Vada Pinson began to crowd my boyish imagination after Dad took me to some Reds games at Crosley Field, the comic pages moved down to second place in interest. When the cold days of winter showed hopeful hints of milder days, I loved reading about what was going on in spring training at Tampa, Florida. Then, when the special Reds tabloid issue that came out right before the season started arrived, I grabbed it and within an hour I seemed to have every word memorized about the players and staff. I generally kept that gold-glittering-to-my-eyes tabloid sitting on the family living room coffee table for weeks as a resource. When the Reds played on the coast and I hadn’t heard who won, I zoomed to the sports page the next day and took a quick look at the caricature of “Mr. Redleg” to see if he had a smile on his face or a bounce in his step. That would suggest the game winner; then all I’d need was to get the score and peruse the box score for which of the Reds had the most hits or had hit a home run.

The sports page in the Kentucky Post had the added treat of carrying short articles about the Kentucky Wildcats basketball and football teams. With the absence of the Lexington Herald and Courier Journal in my northern Kentucky neighborhood, I snatched every word on the ‘Cats I could find anywhere I could get it.

And, so it went through college when most of my newspaper reading took place in the library on the EKU campus. I still leaned toward sports first, with the added treat of a variety of newspapers to read. But now being trained in college classes to think of more serious issues (ha), the front-page news began to attract my attention, both locally and nationally and even internationally. I had no TV in the dorm room, so reading a newspaper became more important in order not to feel so isolated.

I graduated from EKU and began a teaching job at Trapp School, outside Winchester, my new home. Soon it was The Winchester Sun that became important; I desired to learn all I could about my new environs. Local news events and community features helped me to get my bearings, and besides, people in my community struck up conversations that started like this: “I saw in the Sun that . . .,” and I needed to be prepared to talk “Clark County.” The sports pages followed, but by now, I pretty much had abandoned the comics for lack of interest.

It mostly stayed that way for the next twenty years while living and teaching at several schools in Clark County. I moved to Lexington to teach in 1995 and finished up full-time teaching in 2003. At that point, years of imbibing news events gave me a foundation to begin synthesizing what I had learned into reflecting and reading others’ reflections. That meant diving into the opinion pages. On Sunday mornings as my wife and I share the BIG (but not as BIG as in the past) Lexington Herald sections with each other, she doles out the opinion part to me and I am happy to have it first.

But nowadays, honestly, I receive most of what I previously sought in a newspaper, instead, online, and some from on TV. During the day, while writing, it’s quite easy to check the news on my desktop and to hear the ping of the internet news breaking from my smartphone. With the cost of newspapers skyrocketing, I can now almost do without hard copy papers, though my wife prefers something she can hold in her hands.

A lot has happened with my newsy reading habits since those early years down on the floor reading the comics. That’s probably a good thing, but with a lot of the questionable stuff that I’m reading today, I’m not absolutely sure it is.

And what about you? How has your newspaper interests evolved over the years? I bet we have some things in common.

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