By Peter Baniak, Editor and General Manager, The Lexington Herald-Leader
In my nearly 11 years as editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader, one constant has been change.
Change in every part of the news business, which continues to climb financial and business-model mountains as a challenge-filled decade ends and a new one begins.
Change in how we deliver the news to you, with a host of new options in addition to traditional print: the web, social media, apps, video, news alerts on your phone and desktop, podcasts and more.
And change in what you, our readers, expect from us in an increasingly digital news ecosystem that is switched on 24 hours a day and carried with you constantly via your digital devices. As evidence of that change, consider that the Herald-Leader now has nearly 12,000 digital-only subscribers, a number that continues to grow steadily. If you’re one of them, thank you for supporting our local journalism. If you don’t yet subscribe, I’d encourage you to sign up for a digital subscription today.
As 2020 begins, we’ll be making another big change.
As we announced in the fall, we will be moving to a digital-only Saturday edition on Jan. 11. This means there will be no print delivery on Saturdays. We will have expanded Weekend Editions in print on Fridays and Sundays, and we invite you to visit our website or eEdition on Saturdays. Here’s a recap of the changes:
- Friday: The newspaper will have new puzzles as well as a new themed section called “Uplift,” your source of good news for the weekend.
- Saturday: We invite you to “go digital” and visit our website or eEdition, which replicates the experience of a printed newspaper online. You’ll also find our EXTRA EXTRA digital supplement with more national, international and entertainment news and Sports Xtra, our sports supplement.
- Sunday: In addition to the usual comics content, we will add the puzzles and comics that you love to read in your Saturday paper. We’ll also be beefing up the Opinion pages in the Sunday paper, and adding more coverage of the local food and dining scene, both areas that readers have told us are of high interest.
If you have any questions, comments or concerns related to the new delivery method, please give us a call at 800-999-8881 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will do everything possible to ensure your satisfaction.
We’re making this change to help ensure that we maintain and invest in another constant — our ability to report and produce the local, watchdog-focused journalism that has been a hallmark of the Herald-Leader for decades. We continue to produce that journalism from right here in Lexington (yes, the staff and I are still based at Main and Midland in downtown Lexington, despite what you may have seen on social media).
I’m talking about journalism like CAGED, the deeply-reported investigation by reporter John Cheves about dangerous overcrowding and worrisome conditions in Kentucky’s county jails. His follow-up report brought attention to the case of a man who was serving time in prison for a drug crime he didn’t commit. Last month, that man’s sentence was commuted.
Similarly, reporters Beth Musgrave and Daniel Desrochers showed how problems in Kentucky’s cash bail system mean that where you live in Kentucky often affects how long you stay in jail. All of those reports continue to play a role in ongoing conversations about reforming Kentucky’s criminal justice system.
Another investigation by Musgrave disclosed the opaque finances of Lexington’s multimillion-dollar courthouse project in the middle of downtown. That reporting, and a lawsuit by the Herald-Leader, led the city to open the books of the former courthouse and make other changes in how it’s run — the kind of transparency we and other Kentucky newspapers have long advocated for.
Watchdog reporting by Will Wright and Bill Estep showed how the Blackjewel mining company had not taken out a required state bond that would have allowed its miners to be paid even as the company went bankrupt.
Those are just a few examples. Want more? There’s the continued outstanding coverage by our award-winning political team, which you saw throughout the 2019 governor’s race and will see throughout 2020 as Sen. Mitch McConnell fights for re-election. We’ve expanded and enhanced our coverage of food, bourbon and dining, which our readers have shown an insatiable appetite for. Our sports team remains at the top of its game, from high schools to the University of Kentucky. And in 2019, we brought new voices to the Opinion pages, led by columnist Linda Blackford’s commentary on critical local and state issues.
And we’re committed to finding new ways to bring you this journalism, including our partnership with the non-profit Report for America, which has allowed us to add reporters covering Eastern Kentucky and health issues, and will help us add a visual journalist focused on rural issues next summer.
I get asked all the time by readers and others about the future of the news business. While much remains in flux on the business side of news, I will say this: Don’t mistake our move to digital-only on Saturdays as a sign that we’re going anywhere. The Herald-Leader remains committed to providing vital news, information, opinion and watchdog journalism in Central and Eastern Kentucky.
We’ve been doing it in one form or another for 150 years now. That isn’t going to change.