At one time, the Louisville Courier-Journal was seen as one of the leading papers of the South. It claimed a multitude of bureaus, the friendship of politicians, and was owned by old Kentucky bluebloods. With the resignation of its one token conservative columnist, it appears poised to sink into the same morass claiming so many old line liberal publications.
Currently the paper is owned by Gannett, but for most of its existence it thrived under the control of the Bingham family. They were unabashedly liberal, but not intolerantly so. One time editor-in-chief and publisher Barry Bingham Jr. was described as a "First Amendment purist" who rarely, if ever, interfered with the freedom of speech of his reporters and writers.
The paper leaned liberal in ideology, but grew reactionary in business practices. Bingham elicited groans when he predicted that print journalism would be "the last dinosaur in the swamp." While many pundits say this now, Bingham proclaimed it in 1983. Said another editor, "everybody always hated to hear the wired city speech."
After the Bingham family sold the paper, it staggered to the left. Bingham in his magazine Fine Line blasted the editorial board appointed by Gannet in the late 1980s. It had run a photograph of a homicide victim as a cheap ploy to promote gun control.
And just last week, the paper accepted the resignation of its lone token conservative columnist John David Dyche.
Dyche had penned an op-ed suggesting that the Courier-Journal rejuvenate itself. He suggested that the newspaper's bias led it to savage Kentucky's U.S. Senators Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell while avoiding similar criticism of liberals. Dyche asked why the paper urged every institution excepting itself to be more open about top level decisions. "Journalistic jihads" for gun control and higher taxes, he argued, may be hurting the newspaper in the marketplace. More balance on the editorial page could help the paper survive in a tough marketplace.
The editors spiked the piece. They criticized it as wandering away from his job, discussion of "conservative issues of the day.
As if liberal media bias is not a major issue.
Barry Bingham Jr. out of principle once refused to spike a column that commented negatively on the quality of his own breath. The paper that he once commanded has refused to print a sensible critique of practices that are helping to drive the old liberal media from the market altogether. Just as it once ignored advice to go electronic, now it laughs at the notion that balanced editorials could expand its market share.
One more dinosaur marching off to extinction.