As we begin a brand new year, we’re looking back at some of the most memorable stories to come through the WFPL newsroom in 2019.
In the spring of 2019, energy and environment reporter Ryan Van Velzer took an extensive look at how air pollution disparately affects people of color and low-income communities in Louisville. The result was his 5-part series, “Unequal.”
“Here Today” also looked at inequality in Louisville–specifically, the city planning decisions that kept prosperity out of reach for black Louisvillians. In a 9-part limited run podcast, we looked at the current series of investments in the West End, and how they might affect the already-vulnerable residents of those neighborhoods.
Amina Elahi visited the Kentucky State Fair’s antique competition, which included a so-called “Black History Memorabilia” category. Like every year (in recent memory, at least), it included some racist artifacts. The Kentucky State Fair Board banned the sale of items that “represent racist ideologies,” so these artifacts couldn’t be sold there. So why can they still be displayed, and entered in competitions?
The big story of 2019 on the state politics beat was Kentucky’s race for governor. Everybody knew incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin was unpopular, but with little public polling in the race it was hard to know just how unpopular. From talking to voters at a sparsely-attended Bevin rally headlined by Donald Trump Jr. in Pikeville, to combing the crowd at the annual Fancy Farm Political Picnic, to reporting on Bevin’s unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud, capitol reporter Ryland Barton helped tell the story of Bevin’s failed bid for reelection.
Ryland also worked with KyCIR reporter R.G. Dunlop on an investigation about sexual assault allegations against former House Speaker Jeff Hoover and the legislature’s ineffective investigation into the claims.
This year, our Next Louisville project focused on young people. That included this look at youth homelessness in Louisville by Amina Elahi, a deep dive on childhood trauma by Kyeland Jackson and this group of personal narratives, developed by Iroquois High School students working with the Louisville Story Program.
Education reporter Liz Schlemmer introduced us to a high school theater teacher whose casting decisions reflect the gender diversity of her students. She also visited with a group of neurodiverse young people who hold Sunday night dinner parties, and learned why they say autism acceptance is more important than awareness.
Our health reporter, Lisa Gillespie, brought us this look at how living with a chronic illness can affect patients’ mental health. That’s a challenge, especially in rural areas, where rates of chronic illness are higher, and medical care can be harder to access.
Curious Louisville listeners had a lot of questions about transportation this year, especially the controversial, buttery new color of a certain bridge on Second Street. We also looked into the story of the Falls Fountain — and took a towboat to visit what’s left of it.
Our colleague Sydney Boles covered the Blackjewel miner protest for the Ohio Valley ReSource. Sidney spent time with the miners and their families as they camped out on railroad tracks in Harlan County, stopping a shipment of coal. This piece puts the Blackjewel protest in context with miners’ history of advocating for fair labor practices.
And Mary Meehan with OVR challenged our ideas of what homelessness looks like, with this story about the challenges faced by homeless people living in rural areas.
Our teammates at the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting have put together their own list of memorable stories from 2019, including Eleanor Klibanoff’s yearlong investigation of rape cases in Louisville, and a recent look at how public nuisance laws are being used to evict crime victims from their homes.
Thanks for reading and listening in 2019 — and here’s to more memorable local news and audio storytelling in 2020.