Let's Change the Conversation, Kentucky.
Because we deserve journalism that's accessible, affordable and interesting.
Of all the tall tales repeated about journalism in Central and Eastern Kentucky, one of the biggest is that people just don’t want to read news anymore. This has been passed around, telephone-style, so frequently and with such authoritative resignation that it’s led many local media outlets to stop experimenting and instead approach news distribution with the same worn-out grooves—lingering nostalgia for print, complex paywalls, oh-so-many pop-up ads—that they’ve created a serious readership rut.
But to me, this deeply-engrained fallacy of “no one’s interested” never made any sense. Of course people want to read stories about their communities: they just want it in an accessible, affordable and high-quality way that fits in 2021.
That’s why I’m launching The Goldenrod: a news and culture publication covering the vibrant—but currently underserved—small towns, hamlets and communities of Central and Eastern Kentucky. Starting this week, we’ll be providing culture stories, long-form reported pieces and community-driven resources on the high-points, hurdles and everything in-between currently facing our region.
And there are so many stories to tell. I was born and raised in Richmond, Kentucky, and over the past few years, it’s been my pleasure as a journalist to wear out several sets of tires crisscrossing the region covering everything from the Appalachian Mountain Wrestling circuit, to the legislative victories of Eastern Kentucky midwives, to the critical role libraries play in public health. I’ll now be working full-time (thanks to the Substack Local program!) listening to the issues that need to be told and then reporting them on The Goldenrod. Think of it like an “alt weekly” that’s finally catching all the critical stories that have gone untold for years and giving them the attention, thoughtfulness and audience they need.
Will we be reporting about road closures and the morning weather? Probably not. Will we be reporting about UK basketball? No, that’s pretty well covered. But we do have a stable of stories lined up about everything from local waste and economic inequality to feral cats and costume-making, so there’s truly something for everyone.
(Big Rig and The Juice doing their thing in a middle school gym in McKee, c. 2018)
Structurally, simplicity is the name of the game for reader access. The Goldenrod is a newsletter, so after you sign up, you can typically expect it in your inbox twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or can access it directly. Stories on Tuesdays will be more along the lines of investigative reporting, “hard news” interviews, analysis and photo essays about issues facing the region. Thursday’s stories will focus on cultural elements—particularly those that are surprising and of-the-moment. Sometimes, one of these might be for subscribers only, which leads me to…
The paid version! If you subscribe to The Goldenrod, you’ll always get access to Tuesday and Thursday stories as well as Friday’s content, which will be a reimagining of a more traditional local paper structure with guest columns, events, recipes, commentary and other short-form pieces that are almost exclusively community driven. (Speaking of, feel free to pitch me!) These Friday stories for paid subscribers might also take the form of book reviews, exclusive art, opportunities for a behind-the-scenes look at stories from earlier in the week or all-of-the-above. Paid subscribers will also have the chance to become part of The Goldenrod discussion board where we’ll introduce biweekly topics for connecting with other readers. (Think Topix, but not creepy.) I’m hoping these discussions will have a hyper-local feel and help inform The Goldenrod’s direction. This is, after all, a big experiment in community journalism.
Paid subscriptions are $6/month, or $60 for the whole year. Get in by September 1 as part of the Early Bird Special, though, and you’ll save 15 percent on your yearly subscription and have a 10-minute one-on-one chat with me about what you’re hoping to see from The Goldenrod. Starting a conversation as early as possible about holes that need to be filled and ways our reporting can address that will ensure we’re doing the best possible job at making this a publication people look forward to reading.
From a big picture perspective, we’re part of the Substack Local network: one of 12 publications from across the globe selected as part of an initiative to help independent writers start sustainable local news enterprises. (You can read more about that here.) I’m wildly grateful for their support and trust in me to shepherd this project and, hopefully, create a media resource for Central and Eastern Kentucky that will change the current landscape for the better.
Because we deserve the kind of reporting that not just skims the surface of our region, but really gets at the heart of what’s happening. Become part of The Goldenrod today and join us in sending a message that readers are out there—you just have to meet them where they are.
The Goldenrod’s Guiding Vision
listen little sister
angels make their hope here
in these hills
I will guide you
I will guide you
word for word
mouth for mouth
all the holy ones
all our kin
making home here
grace these mountains
we have earth to bind us
can never be broken
vows to live and let live
— bell hooks, Appalachian Elegy, section six, 2012