Louisville Magazine

NOV 2018

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 11.18 35 I've lived in. No wonder I still have dreams (and occasionally nightmares) set there. Philip Johnson, one of the great modern architects, declared in 1952 that the building looked "like a factory." at's what it was: a factory of news, entertainment and civic ambition. No structure symbolizes the city's 20th- century greatness more than this one. Major figures such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, Muhammad Ali, astronaut John Glenn and Holocaust survivor Elie Weisel once strolled through the doors. It certainly belongs on the National Register of Historic Places. e Bingham family owned the Courier-Journal and the Louisville Times (which ceased publication in 1987), and Barry Bingham Sr. resolved to create a living and breathing workspace for his newspapers and radio station (and, eventually, for WHAS-TV). Desks were modern, with side carrels for typewriters. e predominant colors were orange, tan and gray. In those days, the fourth floor was divided in half. e C-J editors and reporters were on the west side, the Louisville Times staff on the east. In the middle of the room was the copy desk, which was staffed around the clock for morning and evening news cycles. e air smelled of ink, paper and smoke from cigarettes and pipes. By about 5 in the afternoon, the newsroom's roar was deafening. e combination of manual typewriters and ringing telephones required concentration skills that I cannot even imagine anymore. An alcove contained a big Webster's unabridged dictionary, with a tan leather cover and well-thumbed pages. We checked any word that seemed unusual, or possibly misspelled. A crusty chain- smoking reporter named Jean Howerton sat behind me, and every afternoon she poured something clear from a thermos into her tall glass of iced tea. As she drank, her cheeks got redder and redder, and her language saltier. My first big shock came the afternoon she exploded after slamming down the receiver. She yelled out a four-letter word that rhymes with "punt." I was so innocent that, beyond "damn" and "hell," I was ignorant of purple prose. I scurried over to the dictionary and looked it up. Jean saw me doing this and started to laugh. She yelled out to no one in particular: "Little Keith doesn't know what c--- means!" In the summer of 1972, Louisville played host to a national political convention for the American Party. Along with another intern, I was assigned to cover the entire affair, spending long hours in hot and smoky Freedom Hall, where the delegates gathered. Over the course of a couple of days, I heard plenty of conspiracy theories and saw too many racist posters, bumper stickers and buttons. ose puzzled by Donald Trump's supporters should have been with us in 1972. Few people today realize how isolated Louisville was, as late as the 1970s, from newspapers produced outside the region. e Washington Post generally came one day late. e New York Times arrived by mail two days after it was published, though by about 1969, the Sunday edition was flown in and sold at a few spots in Louisville — Standiford Field, the Ramada Inn on Hurstbourne Lane and a seedy downtown porn shop euphemistically known as "Liberty News," which was roughly where the entrance to the Hyatt parking garage is today. e fact that our local papers were essentially the only printed news sources placed a far greater burden on the editors here to provide a broad menu of information. Stories were generally shorter, but the array of information they offered was wide. Barry Sr.'s shadow loomed over the city in the decades of his leadership at the Courier-Journal. For me, he became, in time, a respected mentor, a wise counselor and a friend. But when I first went to work at the paper, he seemed as unapproachable as the Wizard of Oz. And so he seemed in the spring of 1971, when I was invited down from the noisy fourth floor to the serene third, which was notable for its dark wood paneling, polished floors and thick carpeting. e outer office had a big vase of the daffodils Barry Sr. would bring into the office in big buckets, picked from his fields in Glenview. I was ushered into his office, and before I knew it, Barry Sr. had jumped to his feet. At 65, he looked far younger. Unbeknownst to me and others who worked for him, he was preparing to turn over the reins of the publishing empire to Barry Jr. just three months later. Barry Sr. asked me all about myself. I mentioned that I was interested in going to law school, and he replied, "My father was a lawyer, but he found journalism to be far more satisfactory." In a 1959 essay, In 1997, Runyon (left) met Hillary Clinton when she was in town for the Kentucky Author Forum. The Courier-Journal had her as a lunch guest in the editorial conference room.

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