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January 6, 2010

Censored: The Local List

It’s not just national stories that get short shrift in mainstream media. Here are LEO’s top 10 under-reported or ignored Kentucky stories

Shootings in Louisville

If there’s a murder in the region, you can expect local news outlets will dedicate at least a few paragraphs to the crime. But when it comes to non-fatal shootings, all Louisville media outlets are guilty of failing to track and report the frequency of gun violence in this community. In a town where gunshots ring out in some neighborhoods almost daily, that’s a dramatic oversight.

Kentucky witness protection

For months, Troya Sheckles dodged investigators to avoid testifying as a witness in a double homicide case. After finally agreeing to cooperate, the 31-year-old was fatally gunned down in Shelby Park in broad daylight. The brazen homicide raised questions about how far law enforcement should go to protect witnesses. In talking with a spokeswoman from the Attorney General’s Office, LEO discovered Kentucky’s Victim and Witness Protection Program is almost broke. Though lawmakers earmarked $200,000 to create the program, no additional funding has been allocated in over a decade. As of last spring, only $49,500 remained in the program’s coffers. The attorney general has repeatedly asked the governor and legislators for more funding, but to no avail.

Mountaintop removal continues to wreak havoc

The dubious and destructive practice of mountaintop removal mining is often overlooked in the various discussions about “clean energy” and the future of electric power in America. Coal is dirty, and coal is king in certain parts of Eastern Kentucky. While mining is an economic booster for the Appalachian regions of the bluegrass, this largely automated and efficient process is eliminating jobs, ruining natural habitats and poisoning the water supplies of some of our state’s poorest citizens.

The case of Ann Gotlib

In late 2008, Louisville Metro Police announced that after 25 years they finally had a suspect in the disappearance of 12-year-old Ann Gotlib, who vanished in the summer of 1983. Just days after police identified Gregory Oakley — a convicted child abuser who died in 2002 — prosecutors said they would not seek a posthumous indictment. That decision was an abrupt ending to a 25-year mystery. In turn, the media failed to fully investigate how Oakley — whom detectives questioned shortly after Gotlib disappeared — managed to elude investigators.

Transparency in city loans

When the Office of Mayor Jerry Abramson loaned The Cordish Cos. $950,000 of taxpayer money to rehabilitate a bar in Fourth Street Live, it failed to require the national developer to account for how it spent the cash. Questions remain about whether Cordish spent what it was supposed to how it was supposed to; the media has failed to keep pressure on both the city and developer to account for the funds and ensure that future land-development deals are not negotiated haphazardly.

Frankfort lawmakers continue to lose

The most salient criticism of the Kentucky General Assembly is that the parochialism of state legislators obstructs what’s best for the state as a whole. At a time when legislators seem burrowed deeper than ever in their own interests, coverage of Frankfort in mainstream media has declined. Last session’s ridiculous posturing over expanding gaming — which resulted in yet another ill-conceived morality vs. money display and missed economic opportunity — is a shining example, and it left most Kentuckians as disgusted as ever with our ineffectual and at times disingenuous legislators.

‘Unfair’ shut down

The St. James Court Art Show is an annual large-scale event that garners much of the local media’s gaze, the results of which are shiny, happy feature stories about crafts and the people who love them. During the festivities this year, Metro officials prohibited participants of a local, alternative show — the “Unfair” — from selling their work and threatened to confiscate the artwork unless artists obtained a special $85 permit, as required by a new “peddler’s ordinance.” The crackdown left many artists despondent, and a handful went home. The rest rushed downtown to get permits.

Metro Department of Codes and Regulations

The fact that the owner of Javanon Soccer Club built a massive metal soccer complex without the necessary city approval garnered local headlines, in part because he is a former city engineer. Then the agency — led by departing Director Charles Cash — knowingly conducted a secret meeting about the snafu, prompting a few more unflattering news stories. Unfortunately, the media failed to look at the bigger picture, neglecting to delve into whether such oversights are common within the city agency charged with enforcing zoning laws.

Static Major lawsuit against Baptist Hospital East

Few media outlets paid much attention to the sudden death of Grammy-Award winning hip-hop artist Static Major, who died in 2008. Even fewer have bothered to cover the fact that the family of the singer, songwriter and producer is suing Baptist Hospital East and the chief surgeon who recommended and administered the treatment ultimately blamed for his death. The lawsuit is currently in Jefferson County Circuit Court, where it has been ongoing for more than a year.

Inequities in funding for community arts groups

This economy sucks, and one thing that tends to happen when people trim their discretionary spending is a drop in revenue for arts groups. The Fund for the Arts is the big cheese around here; through fundraising and distribution of federal, state and local grants and appropriations, the fund floats the big groups, like Actors Theatre, the ballet and the orchestra. But smaller groups have complained for years that they’re routinely excluded from the party, despite their need for cash to maintain all manner of programs that run on a smaller scale. Louisville has a dynamic arts scene, and the more diversity, the better.

Compiled by Phillip M. Bailey, Stephen George and Sarah Kelley

ADS / Spam instead of reader comments in LEO

By G-townReader
Are the cr@ppy ads posted ahead of my comment PAID ADVERTISING through which LEO derives revenue - or a guise to discourage other readers & posters and to cheapen this particular "news" medium????????????

Sarah Kelley

By skelley
I apologize for the proliferation of ads in the comments section ... we are working on blocking those pesky spammers for good.