High Five to The Highlander! Good News, Great Spirit.

May 2007 - Katie Bennett was both scribe and model for her Derby feature. Photo by Eric Bartley

Just a few months shy of five years ago, my friend Bill Sandman took a folded publication out of his mailbox and gave it to me. “I thought you might like to see this new paper,” he said. My response was a huffy, “Oh, please…not another one.”

The publishing roller coaster  in Louisville was always in motion with every car filled and I did not feel that we had the time or energy to focus on one more.

However, as I spread the paper out on the kitchen table and slowly turned each page,  I was impressed with its simplicity, clarity and the distinct message of “community.”  The production quality was crisp and clean and the stories spoke to me as if I were in the same room with the subject. The advertising was familiar to my village of merchants and entrepreneurs.

I thought to myself, A. Have I judged a newcomer too suddenly? and B. I wonder what story I could pitch?

It didn’t take me long to discover that the publication was a true labor of love and was conceived by Mary Jean Kirtley, and born in her Highlands home. A long-time Bonnycastle neighborhood resident, animal advocate and independent business owner, Mary Jean had made her mark in design work with Kirtley Graphics and desired to see a product dedicated to a neighborhood news source and forum of expression.

Well, no wonder it looked so good. It felt good, too.

Fast forward to the cusp of 2012 – beyond the first pitch, which was a story about my friend, musician-activist John Gage,  accompanied by a photo of the Kentucky Homefront creator on his Baxter Avenue porch by Jim Battles, I have been blessed with the opportunity of having my byline in The Highlander. The stories shared, adventures taken and  friends made are innumerable. The reward is an active readership and of course, the personal interaction out on the streets. Some of our readers have become writers and much of our distribution is carried out  in the hands of our neighbors.

As for the competitive aspects, the paper has proved itself to be an advocate for our city at the neighborhood level, therefore I feel there is room for everybody.

The little black and white paper that could, my favorite nick name in those early months, is no longer delivered in the Highlands zip code mailboxes but has its own distribution points, sturdy racks and has taken on several nearby  neighborhoods in its growth. The online edition at www.thehighlanderonline.com  is like stepping out of Kansas into Oz as the rich colors of Brian Bohannon’s photography are revealed.

More than anything, the hands-on approach to each issue, every contributor and the task of sustaining a healthy publishing business is the soul of The Highlander. Kudos to those who brought in the articles, production support and clients. Gratitude to local venues who welcome our bundles in racks and counter tops.

It all comes back to the living room desk on the quiet court near Cherokee Park. Thanks to Mary Jean for all the midnight oil, missed dog walks and caring about each word and image that is part of each month for five years.

That is the story.