January 31, 2006

Editor’s Note, The week that was: JY is in, Ed Manassah out

Well, the columnist is out of the bag. John Yarmuth is in the race. After weighing his decision for the better part of a month, after no small amount of waxing and waning, the LEO founder ultimately waxed and decided this week to run in the Democratic primary for Kentucky’s 3rd District House of Representatives seat.

Wow.

It’s been an interesting prospect up till now, but so very abstract. Now it gets real — and much more interesting.

Clearly, LEO holds Mr. Yarmuth in high regard. He is a friend and former boss. That last item is important because I’m not sure people realize that when he and Blanche Kitchen sold the newspaper in 2003, John completely relinquished his decision-making role at LEO.

His weekly column has continued, by mutual agreement, and the staff has asked John’s opinion on issues from time to time. He’s also helped mediate some internal matters with his wise counsel, for which we’re grateful. But that has been done out of the goodness of his heart. He has not signed any paychecks since the sale. He doesn’t hire and he can’t fire. He can only inspire.

I say this not to minimize his contributions but to set the record straight. Unless it was in his column, Hot Coals, don’t blame John for what you’ve seen in LEO since July 16, 2003. Blame the editor.

That’s me.

Clearly, his candidacy presents several challenges for the newspaper. The first question was actually easy. We suspended John’s column last week for the duration of the campaign. That’s the only fair way to handle that.

The next question is about how we’ll cover the race. We’ll watch it like any important story, and we will write about it in the LEO way — with a point of view. We’ll put bylines on stories that are reported. We will dig in and play devil’s advocate. If we put John on the hot seat on occasion, so be it. (Speaking of which, Mr. Yarmuth, why the hell didn’t LEO get to break this story?)

We will also, I am sure, carry opinionated pieces about the race — commentaries and letters to the editor — which will be labeled as such. People with opposing views will be given space in the paper to make their case.

We will not be squeamish about this and we won’t feign objectivity. Because “journalistic objectivity” is a dodge that journalists use to make everyone think they don’t have a point of view. Being fair and having a point of view are not mutually exclusive. (Another aside: Why was the C-J story announcing Yarmuth’s candidacy buried on the paper’s Web site? Nineteen stories were posted in Tuesday’s “local news” section, but Kay Stewart’s story on Yarmuth could only be located through a search.)

Above all, we will push for openness, fairness and decency. We would love nothing more than to see a primary race based on substance. We will give credit if that happens, and we’ll call bullshit if it doesn’t.

And so, let the games begin. —Cary Stemle

•••
About the same time last summer that Courier-Journal publisher Ed Manassah began pushing the LG&E site on Main Street for the new arena, he also was beginning talks with Bellarmine University President Joseph McGowan about leaving the C-J to develop a new School of Communications, Mass Media and Culture at the private Catholic school.

On Monday, only five days after LEO called for Manassah to go public with details of his involvement in promoting the LG&E site, the newspaper’s parent company, Gannett, announced that Manassah had accepted the Bellarmine job and was being replaced by Denise Ivey, who leaves a similar job in Pensacola, Fla.

LEO hopes that despite his new career, Manassah will still talk publicly about his involvement in driving the arena to the LG&E site — specifically about any meetings he may have attended that also included Arena Authority Chairman Jim Host and Frost Brown Todd managing partner Ed Glasscock, who belongs to the Bellarmine board of trustees and also represents LG&E.

In a related development, Host appointed himself as the Arena Authority spokesperson in the group’s first public meeting on Monday. He also said that he is near completion on agreements with the University of Louisville and the State Fair Board that he will present to the Authority for its ratification sometime in the near future.

Host also contended that there’s uncertainty over whether the Arena Authority, because of its tax status, is legally required to open its meetings to the media and public. However, he magnanimously decreed that the meetings would be open, regardless of what the law says. —Billy Reed

Contact the writers at leo@leoweekly.com