John Boel’s Journey Told in New Book

When John Boel met me at a Starbucks last week to give me a preview copy of his book, he rode up on his bike. I hadn’t realized that part of John’s story was that he was still without a drivers license, one of the toughest parts of his struggle with alcohol addiction that cost him his job as a news anchor at WLKY-TV. Of course, the carnage from the second DUI cost John a whole lot more, but he’s gone about his recovery with the same determination he brought to catching bad guys dealing with their own addictions.

John Boel's book is now in stores

But as John told me his story, it was clear he didn’t take the easy way out, on anything. When his drivers license was suspended, he quit driving. Not even to go to the store. During his time on home incarceration, he didn’t leave the house to see his daughter play sports. And when he had to go downtown to file for unemployment benefits, he rode the bus.

For local media watchers, though, Boel’s book is a must-read. In the first half, he chronicles some of the amazing stories he produced for WLKY, stories that earned him 70 Emmy awards. He went undercover as Santa Claus to see who would give money even if there was no cause. He caught men trying to have sex with boys, way back before it became a national phenomena. An investigation into people killing dogs with pistols. The ridiculousness of local snow coverage. It seems like Boel was in the middle of every controversial issue in town in the last 15 years.

This is no tell-all. Boel, when he’s critical of anyone in local news, leaves the names out. But he does reveal some failings in local news. Boel recounts how an unnamed local anchor, at Derbv time, asked this question on the air: “So what is the Triple Crown, a Horse race or something?”

Those stories keep your interest, but the second half of the book is what you’ll remember. That’s where he tells the story of his battle with alcohol, starting with beer bongs in college and up to the time he was busted for the second time for DUI. It’s been a humbling experience for him, going through a traumatic experience, all the while being recognized in public and shamed everywhere from rehab to Kroger.

Like everything else he does, Boel researched his rehab, learning how it doesn’t work for most addicts, that a lot of people go back again and again. He has a chapter called “East End Househusband” in which he describes how Denny Crum’s famous quote hit home when he figured out he had plenty of time on his hands and not much to do. So he’s done plenty of projects around the house. He discusses going from being on a billboard outside a bus to being a passenger inside it.

I ask him how he spends his time, if he’s looking for work. He says he doesn’t read much (but does read my site daily, making me wonder if he’s angling for a good review). He’s talked about plenty of work opportunities, but the inability to drive seems to get in the way. In the book, he’s critical of anonymous media criticism (going back to LEO’s Ed Woodward) and media bloggers who have gotten plenty of mileage out of his downfall (guilty as charged).

Boel is open to the idea of getting back into TV, but I am starting to doubt it. He did have discussions with a local station about coming back to TV, but it didn’t work out. He’s turned down some opportunities, he said, preferring to focus on his rehab and getting better. He’s in great shape — and posted his best time in the Ironman triathlon after shedding some weight.

I read the 188 pages in two sittings. It’s hard to put down, a compelling story written by the man who lived it, who seemed to be on top of the world until his demon pulled him down.

On the News…In the News, by John Boel. Published by Butler Books. $19.95. Boel has book signings scheduled Nov. 12 at the Kentucky Book Fair, Nov. 13 at Barnes and Noble and Nov. 15 at Carmichael’s.