Louisville Journalists on What It Was Like to Cover 100 Days of Protests

From a story by Richard A. Green in the Louisville Courier Journal headlined “We are a different newsroom”: How the Courier Journal has covered 100 days of protests”: the story then goes on to let Courier Journal reporters and photographers reflect on their coverage:

For photographer Sam Upshaw Jr., who grew up in west Louisville, covering the protests has been deeply personal.

“I would often hear stories about the angst and upheaval caused by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” he said. “Following his death, a thriving west Louisville business district was destroyed by riots and never recovered.

“I was a child at the time, but over the years, I often wondered what it would be like to cover such a historic moment as a journalist. I never thought I would get the chance until now.”

Like Upshaw, Phillip M. Bailey is a Louisville native who knows firsthand the struggles of many West End residents. There’s an incentive, he said, for The Courier Journal to “examine what we have done (as a city), what we are doing now and what are we going to do” the next time another Black person dies at the hands of police.

“Being Black and a lifelong West End resident who has never lived east of 40th Street, I knew the weight of this as with other stories about the community I have never left regardless of my professional journey,” said Bailey, who is now a USA TODAY political reporter. “I can’t promise anyone they’ll like what I write or what they read, but I am pursuing the truth as best as possible. That sickle may strike at your beliefs, but pause for a moment and suspend your biases. Please read, think and then speak.”

Bailey Loosemore was among the first Courier Journal staffers to cover the marches. She was there May 28, the first night of protests, when a demonstration turned violent as seven people were shot near Sixth and Jefferson streets.

“That first night, I witnessed a lot of anger and pain I had known existed but I’d never seen so clearly. It made me realize as a reporter, part of my responsibility is to make sure other people can understand and recognize those emotions, even if they don’t experience them in person,” she said.

It’s also been a time of self-reflection for Loosemore.

“Through the protests, I’ve had to think hard about my ignorance and lack of knowledge about experiences faced by so many Black people and people of color. And I’ve come to better appreciate the power I have as a member of the media,” she said. “I’ll never fully understand the weight of being a Black person in our society. But I’m so thankful that I’m in a job that allows me to educate myself and others every day.”

Sportswriter Hayes Gardner joined our protest coverage on day 19 and acknowledged, “I wasn’t prepared for what was to come.”“I was writing a story on college basketball that morning when I learned I’d be switching to the protests, so it was pretty jarring to be running from pepper balls that evening and trying to figure out if it was tear gas that had been deployed or another chemical agent,” he said. “Needing to wash my face mask because it had pepper spray in it is not something I imagined I’d have to do multiple times this year.”

Michael Clevenger is 23-year veteran of The Courier Journal who has called Louisville home since 1972. He attended Male High School and the University of Kentucky.

He is preparing for his favorite assignment of the year: snapping images from Churchill Downs at Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

Clevenger says he’s been asked often if he’s ready for things in his hometown to “return to normal.”

“It’s always a hard question to answer,” he said. “What people want to know is if I’d like to things to go back to the way they were. The answer is ‘no.’ I don’t want things to go back to ‘normal.’

“Normal is something that worked best for people who look like me. What is and was normal for me doesn’t work for some people in my city. That’s not OK. Things in Louisville feel broken right now and that’s hard for me. Louisville is my home and my home is hurting. My hope is that, when we do get back to ‘normal,’ we have become a new city. A city that becomes the new standard for how we relate to each other.  A new standard in how we treat those who are marginalized.

“I’d love to see Louisville become the model for how to do this.”

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