The Biggest Local Media Stories of 2011

Here you go — a completely unscientific subjective list of the top stories I’ve covered in local media in 2011. It’s usually disappointing to me, in this modern digital world of news consuming, to see what posts from this site generate the largest amount of traffic. It’s the same reason I hate the popularity of reality TV shows, or NASCAR. Or how really bad TV commercials, like the one with that damn KIA Store chick, keep showing up on TV.

So I didn’t use that information to determine my list. I saw plenty of significant changes on the local landscape, especially in TV.  As stations shuffled programming and changed personnel, our daily newspaper continued to decline in relevance and other media, including independent web sites like this one, gained readers. Other print outlets seemed to surge, while the overall battle for advertising dollars forced mainstream outlets to find ways to cut back. Except in public radio, which continued to add reporters and programming.

In no particular order, here goes:

The public was divided on whether WDRB's Lindsay Allen said it

Did She or Didn’t She Say That? In a story that was contemplated and studied by everyone in town, WDRB-TV’s Lindsay Allen either did or didn’t use the “N” word in an on-air exchange with Sterling Riggs about Tiger Woods. The station backed Allen, who made what I called a “lame” on-air apology the next day.  Allen, one my favorite local on-air personalities and genuinely well-liked in media circles, reacted by de-friending me on Facebook.

WAVE’s Programming Shuffle: In December, WAVE announced it was giving up its Noon News. The station’s dismal ratings caused GM Ken Selvaggi to move its mid-day newscast to 11 a.m., and installing WAVE3 Listens at 12. And he said good-bye to Listens host Cindy Sullivan, putting John Ramsey in his place.

Bye Barry Bernson: The WDRB morning news anchor retired in October after an amazing 47 years in broadcasting. When I was doing a guest spot on the morning show in 2009, he called me an “eminence grise.” Had to look that one up.

Bill Lamb’s Bold Moves: When he spoke to our Breakfast of Champions group in March, WDRB GM Bill Lamb said he’d gone in attack mode during the recession, picking up some high-rated syndicated programming (Live with Kelly, Millionaire, Dr. Phil) that later paid off in ratings numbers.  He also launched a 6:30 newscast. And in a bizarre story in August, he got in a war of words (reported here) with Matt Jones of the Kentucky Sports Network, saying Jones “lacked a moral and ethical compass.”

John Boel’s Journey: Two DUI arrests cost WLKY-TV’s John Boel his job. He spent 2011 in rehab for alcohol abuse, then wrote a book about the experience, including some shocking revelations about local media. He competed, and posted his best time, in the Louisville Ironman competition.  In December, WAVE hired Boel to join its morning news team as a reporter.

Death of Louisville Live: Even though nobody watched it, WBKI’s new management sent some shockwaves through media circles by canceling its Louisville Live morning show, which was hosted by Tara Bassett and Becca White.  The station’s management gave little notice, telling staff about the change after the show aired July 29.

Remembering Tom Peterson: The news that former LEO media critic Tom Peterson died on November hit the local media community hard. Peterson was just 59.

A Great Day at WHAS: Forced into action by the end of the Oprah show and ABC decisions to cancel soap operas, WHAS-TV launched a new morning show, Great Day Live!, with Rachel Platt and Terry Meiners as c0-hosts, and Angie Fenton as a field reporter. The show attempts to mix legit stories and paid guest appearances. WHAS also added a 4 p.m. newscast hosted by Claudia Coffey and Renee Murphy. Neither show did as well as expected in the November ratings period.

Newspapers and Furloughs: News on the newspaper industry continued to be bad as Gannett forced its staffers to take unpaid vacations for the third straight year while paying ginourmous bonuses to its leadership team.  June layoffs forced the paper to do more with less, and incuding editorial colunist Betty Baye, who later agreed to do Point of View editorials on WDRB-TV.

Hot Button Honcho: Longtime WAVE GM Steve Langford surprised a lot of folks by announcing his retirement in March. He was known for some controversial Hot Button editorials and made the decision to launch the ill-fated 725 Live show with host John Ramsey at 12:30 weekdays. That show was later moved to weekends after failing to catch on with viewers. But Langford’s departure was noted with great fanfare, and Bill Lamb even did a Point of View in tribute to his competition.

Helicopter Sharing: In a cost-cutting move, WHAS and WAVE announced they would share the services of a helicopter, with each getting to put its logo on one side of the bird.

WLKY Leads the Way, Hires Strong Investigative Reporter:  WLKY seemed to increase its advantage in local news ratings in each sweeps period, thanks in part of the strong showing of CBS programming in the local market. And in response to losing Boel, its primary investigative reporter, the station hired veteran reporter Daune Pohlman, whose pieces on the local school system’s Six-Figure Salary club made big local news. His series on our crumbling infrastructure will likely earn some journalism awards this year. Andy Alcock, who had been at WLKY for 14 years, left the station.

What Happened to Hobbs?: In June, WHAS announced that sports director Matt Hobbs would be leaving the station, but offered no explanation. Hobbs later contacted me, but said he couldn’t tell me the reason he left.

And Finally. . . In January a news-focused Web site,, was launched, featuring the work of a team of well-known volunteer writers focused on local news.  It’s going OK (grin).