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Terry Boyd: The curious case of Curtis Morrison

by Terry Boyd

Curtis Morrison

Last night, I got emails from Ruby Cramer, a reporter at BuzzFeed.

Cramer wanted Curtis Morrison’s contact information.

All I could tell her is, “Curtis is no longer a contributor to Insider Louisville.”

Which is a shame.

Curtis has the makings of a solid reporter, under adult supervision.

Exceptional when it comes to getting public documents under the Freedom of Information Act, then squeezing out all the data and nuances on the way to documenting an important story.

Unfortunately, Curtis is also an overt and dedicated political activist, and you can’t be both at the same time at Insider Louisville.

It was my mistake to keep Curtis without an explicit guarantee he wouldn’t indulge in politics.

A painful lesson we’ll never repeat.

Curtis has been accused by Jefferson County Democratic Party Chairman Jacob Conway of secretly taping Sen. Mitch McConnell and his staff in a opposition research session, zeroing in on actress/activist Ashley Judd, who was considering challenging McConnell.

I’m happy to say that one came out of the blue.

We posted a story about the Mother Jones scoop unaware of any accusations.

Whoever made it, the tape ended up with Mother Jones’ David Corn, the same journalist who acquired video of the Mitt Romney “47 percent” speech at a Palm Beach GOP fundraiser.

That story contributed to Romney losing the November election to President Barack Obama.

Until I hear the facts from Curtis, I support him in the spirit of innocent until proven guilty. But his continued activism with Progress Kentucky, a liberal political action committee, is a non-starter here.

Losing Curtis is a loss for news consumers.

Unlike a lot of reporters in Louisville, he’s never had a retraction or major correction even though he always takes on tough, complicated stories.

In the last three months, Curtis broke a number of stories that the rest of the media latched onto including the controversy over Sullivan University trying to purchase property at historic Farmington through board members with conflicts of interest.

He also reported in depth on the Bauer property dispute.

In both cases, I got emails from skeptical developers, who told me “Curtis is a preservationist!” then conceded Curtis’ reporting was accurate and fair to both sides.

During the past two years, Curtis broke major story after major story including that Metropolitan Sewer District had “invested” in complex derivatives called “floating-to-fixed interest rate swaps.” That investment has led to a $100 million “notional” loss – an unbooked loss that will stay with MSD for years – because MSD used a hedging tool to bet interest rates would rise.

While other reporters depend on news releases, Curtis reports the old fashioned way – he spends days and nights combing through hundreds of pages of dry financial and legal documents.

This week, he reported on an internal Metro Government audit that found problems at the Louisville Zoo and Metro Council, a post he filed at 3:30 in the morning.

I stand by his methodology, but not his Jekyll and Hyde dance between activism and journalism.

Full disclosure: Curtis and I are often at odds over politics, which isn’t unusual at news operations.

I’m a middle-of-the-road guy, and I abhor political extremes. As an ethnic Jew, I know one essential truth: When you’ve gotten rid of the Nazis, don’t be surprised if the Bolsheviks turn out to be just as bad.

It’s a complete journalistic vanity that reporters are unbiased. At least 90 percent of journos in this town have political beliefs that align with Curtis’s. So at IL, we try to balance out our biases by reaching across the political spectrum.

IL has had guest contributors from left and right including former GOP gubernatorial candidate Phil Moffitt and Jim Waters, president of the conservative Bluegrass Institute.

Our staffers and regular contributors range from vaguely liberal to moderately conservative Christian evangelicals.

My advice to Curtis always was and always will be, “You can reach more people through thoughtful and fair reporting than through activism.”

 

Recent Stories from Terry
  • https://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Louisville

    Re: “At least 90 percent of journos in this town have political beliefs that align with Curtis’s.”

    Fair reporting in the form of an undocumented assertion?

    As for Curtis, I think we live in different times now, where journalism and activism are on a collision course, and Curtis is just ahead of the curve. The gesture of seeking non-bias in journalism is a 20th century anomaly.

    I also don’t agree that Curtis’ activism has been ineffective. Watching both McConnell and the Republican-Lite KDP twitch are huge accomplishments.

  • http://twitter.com/MetroIssuesLou Metro Issues :: Lou

    Re: “At least 90 percent of journos in this town have political beliefs that align with Curtis’s.”

    Fair reporting in the form of an undocumented assertion?

    As for Curtis, I think we live in different times now, where journalism and activism are on a collision course, and Curtis is just ahead of the curve. The gesture of seeking non-bias in journalism is a 20th century anomaly.

    I also don’t agree that Curtis’ activism has been ineffective. Watching both McConnell and the Republican-Lite KDP twitch are huge accomplishments.

  • Lonnie

    Being a sacrificial lamb has its upside and downside. We’ll have to wait and see how this all plays out. My best to Curtis.

  • Lonnie

    Being a sacrificial lamb has its upside and downside. We’ll have to wait and see how this all plays out. My best to Curtis.

  • Pingback: Who is Progress Kentucky?

  • Gary Bo

    I always traced the down fall of journalism to 1939. That’s when a group of American journalists found themselves trapped in Germany for several weeks under the National Socialists. It was during this time they collectively made an agreement about what they would report on and what Americans should and shouldn’t know. That was as we now know, a colossal mistake.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gary.bowman.351 Gary Bo

    I always traced the down fall of journalism to 1939. That’s when a group of American journalists found themselves trapped in Germany for several weeks under the National Socialists. It was during this time they collectively made an agreement about what they would report on and what Americans should and shouldn’t know. That was as we now know, a colossal mistake.

  • J. Bruce Miller

    Gary Bo: I’m a voracious reader of history. I’ve never, ever read anytihing even remotely resembling what you’ve written about 1939. Would you be kind enough to advise everyone about your allegation and its derivation and your knowledge of it? Otherwise, I’ll dismiss it – because that kind of allegation requires verification (at least in my judgment.).

  • J. Bruce Miller

    Gary Bo: I’m a voracious reader of history. I’ve never, ever read anytihing even remotely resembling what you’ve written about 1939. Would you be kind enough to advise everyone about your allegation and its derivation and your knowledge of it? Otherwise, I’ll dismiss it – because that kind of allegation requires verification (at least in my judgment.).

  • John Whitney Jr.

    @Gary Bo: What are you talking about?

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.j.whitney.1 John Whitney Jr.

    @Gary Bo: What are you talking about?

  • johnlittle

    Well thought and well stated position Mr. Boyd.
    Apropos here: “Nothing separates you from the truth more than the strait-jacket of ideology.” A.R.

    Cordially, John Little, Sr.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003302307939 John Little Sr.

    Well thought and well stated position Mr. Boyd.
    Apropos here: “Nothing separates you from the truth more than the strait-jacket of ideology.” A.R.

    Cordially, John Little, Sr.

  • Johnny Pryor

    Read the Introduction to Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I believe it describes what happened in 1939 fairly well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johnny.pryor2 Johnny Pryor

    Read the Introduction to Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I believe it describes what happened in 1939 fairly well.

  • J. Bruce Miller

    I have a copy in my library and have read it twice. I’ll read the Intro AGAIN tonight.

  • J. Bruce Miller

    I have a copy in my library and have read it twice. I’ll read the Intro AGAIN tonight.

  • Gary

    “Curtis is also an overt and dedicated political activist, and you can’t be both at the same time at Insider Louisville”

    No worries, there’s always a place for him at cable network news.

  • TechArtists

    “Curtis is also an overt and dedicated political activist, and you can’t be both at the same time at Insider Louisville”

    No worries, there’s always a place for him at cable network news.

  • http://profiles.google.com/richlehmann711 Rich Lehmann

    Sounds like a typical journalist to me. They watch a Robert Redford movie and decide they have the power to control the facts people do or do not learn. I bet he never dug this deep into Obama.

  • http://profiles.google.com/richlehmann711 Rich Lehmann

    Sounds like a typical journalist to me. They watch a Robert Redford movie and decide they have the power to control the facts people do or do not learn. I bet he never dug this deep into Obama.

  • jrdobbsjr

    The parts of that work where Shirer mentions that the Left-wing parties in Weimar were ordered by Stalin not to ally with the Center-Left to oppose Hitler were rather interesting, I thought.

  • jrdobbsjr

    The parts of that work where Shirer mentions that the Left-wing parties in Weimar were ordered by Stalin not to ally with the Center-Left to oppose Hitler were rather interesting, I thought.

  • AndyBinGA

    curtis morrison Twitter:

    @curtisky

    Email:

    curtster3@gmail.com

    I told him about how he will lose his browneye virginity in jail

  • AndyBinGA

    curtis morrison Twitter:

    @curtisky

    Email:

    curtster3@gmail.com

    I told him about how he will lose his browneye virginity in jail

  • noleman13

    So you cant be an “overt” political activist? I guess “covert” is ok?

  • noleman13

    So you cant be an “overt” political activist? I guess “covert” is ok?

  • noleman13

    There has never been an “unbiased” journalist. It is impossible. Noone, no matter their political persuasion, cannot separate themselves from their beliefs. It will bleed into what they write. It may not be intentional but it is a 100% certainty. At least now there are other options out there. As long as the “mainstream media” refuses to admit their biases they will continue their decline. If you do not believe me just look at Fox news and MSNBC. They are who they are and are thriving in the marketplace. While CNN refuses to admit who they are and are dying a slow death

  • noleman13

    There has never been an “unbiased” journalist. It is impossible. Noone, no matter their political persuasion, cannot separate themselves from their beliefs. It will bleed into what they write. It may not be intentional but it is a 100% certainty. At least now there are other options out there. As long as the “mainstream media” refuses to admit their biases they will continue their decline. If you do not believe me just look at Fox news and MSNBC. They are who they are and are thriving in the marketplace. While CNN refuses to admit who they are and are dying a slow death

  • http://insiderlouisville.com Terry Boyd

    Amen

  • http://louisvillecourant.com/ curtis morrison

    I was arrested protesting Obama in front of his house.
    I think you just lost a bet.

  • curtismorrison

    I was arrested protesting Obama in front of his house.
    I think you just lost a bet.

  • Tom Ritchford

    Hey, Terry Boyd!

    Just want you to know that there are still decent people out there, people who love the truth and journalism – unlike you.

    You should be deeply ashamed of your comments and actions – but you aren’t.

    We’re proud of Curtis. We’re ashamed of you.

    Have you considered some field other than journalism? I hear there are a lot of jobs in corporate public relations…

  • Tom Ritchford

    Ha ha! Prison rape! How funny!

    I do understand that since you can’t come up with anything substantive to post, you spew venom instead.

    Awfully brave of you to post someone else’s email address, big guy. Do you have the guts to post your own?

  • Night Rider

    Mr. Boyd:
    “Until I hear the facts from Curtis, I support him in the spirit of innocent until proven guilty.”

    Wow, how benevolent of you. And I love how you throw the qualifier right after it.

    Apparently from your ‘damning with faint praise’ comments, you think Curtis Morrison is a good reporter, until he pisses off the guy with the power. Then you throw him under the bus. Yeah, that just reeks of journalistic integrity. Actually, it just reeks. Nice job of of covering your ass.

    I guess those years of dealing with ‘the most influential executives and financiers in Louisville’ (most of whom, I feel safe in saying, are probably MM supporters) taught you something. Maybe you should give up being a ‘journalist’ (wink wink) and see about becoming a PR flack for a politician. You seem to be better suited for that position. I’m sure your dealings with the executives and financiers in Louisville have taught you the proper way to apply lips to posterior so as to not cause undue chaffing or chapping. Seriously, talk to your buddies about putting in a good word for you with MM. And get out of journalism.

    Your welcome.

  • Epstein’s Mother

    On the other hand, where “pissing off the guy with the power” involves breaking wiretapping laws…well, hey, that is a mighty fine looking bus after all.

    This isn’t the UK.

  • Night Rider

    I’m betting it wasn’t what Curtis Morrison did, it was who he did it to.

    Why Terry Boyd just wrote another article today lamenting that Morrison didn’t give Insider Louisville the opportunity to publish the tape or his confession.
    “(We love it … we worked with Curtis for more than a year, during which he pushed the rest of the media with his excellent reporting. Yet we were offered neither the McConnell tape nor the confessional! Oy!)”

    Of course, this is after the fact, so Mr. Boyd can say whatever he wants without actually having to back it up with actions.

    As for breaking wiretapping laws, we still have that whole annoying innocent until proven guilty thing. Personally I think that anything that pisses off a politician, especially one as sleazy and slimy as McConnell, is a good thing.

  • Epstein’s Mother

    Sure, you’re innocent until proven guilty — in a court. Unless, of course, you actually admit you did it. In which case, you’re pretty much guilty. Even in court.

  • Epstein’s Mother

    Do you have a lawyer? Because, seriously, what the heck were you thinking with the Salon piece? Did you run it by him or her?

  • Kathleen Barber

    I still don’t understand why Curtis was fired. I disagree with him on many things, but firing him for exercising his political interests on his own time? He hasn’t been convicted of anything and likely won’t be since he didn’t wiretap anyone. He recorded a conversation he could hear from outside a room. The reasoning behind the firing doesn’t make sense. So no one who works for IL is allowed to have political beliefs, or if they do, they don’t dare speak of them even in their off hours? No wonder most journalists are useless idiots these days, their bosses won’t allow anyone capable of independent thought or possessing a soul to work.

  • Kathleen Barber

    I still don’t understand why Curtis was fired. I disagree with him on many things, but firing him for exercising his political interests on his own time? He hasn’t been convicted of anything and likely won’t be since he didn’t wiretap anyone. He recorded a conversation he could hear from outside a room. The reasoning behind the firing doesn’t make sense. So no one who works for IL is allowed to have political beliefs, or if they do, they don’t dare speak of them even in their off hours? No wonder most journalists are useless idiots these days, their bosses won’t allow anyone capable of independent thought or possessing a soul to work.

  • Kathleen Barber

    I still don’t understand why Curtis was fired. I disagree with him on many things, but firing him for exercising his political interests on his own time? He hasn’t been convicted of anything and likely won’t be since he didn’t wiretap anyone. He recorded a conversation he could hear from outside a room. The reasoning behind the firing doesn’t make sense. So no one who works for IL is allowed to have political beliefs, or if they do, they don’t dare speak of them even in their off hours? No wonder most journalists are useless idiots these days, their bosses won’t allow anyone capable of independent thought or possessing a soul to work.

  • HeywoodJa

    Curtis sounds like a good guy. Your loss. You’re telling me you don’t hire anyone who has opinions? I don’t believe you.

  • Epstein’s Mother

    When you have to hold the recorder up to door vent and you can’t tell what you’ve recorded because you can’t actually hear the details of the conversation through the door vent (until you get back to your place and listen to the recording), and your “heart is racing” because you’re worried someone will see you — well, that sounds an awful lot like a violation of federal wiretapping statutes to me.

  • Dark_Otter

    I’ve never read such a pathetic, limp-d*cked attempt at ass-covering in my entire life!

  • http://www.InformingChristians.com/ DebraJMSmith

    One can be a journalist and an activist and deliver thoughtful and fair reporting. I do it all the time on my own Christian right wing conservative website. –However I do agree that many on both sides (left and right) have a hard time pulling such a balance off. And in this case, Curtis Morrison did not pull it off.

    Curtis’s first mistake was how he obtained the information. His second mistake was misunderstanding what the speaker had said about the senator’s legislative aides, who were on their “free time.” His third mistake was not understanding how campaign strategy against an opponent works. –The Senator’s meeting was nothing out of the normal and Ashly Judd was just the first one to be spoken of.

    There was a fourth mistake Curtis made, and that was implying that a big thing was being made out of Ashly Judd’s depression. Judd’s emotional state went beyond normal depression that probably everyone deals with at some times in life. The audio that Curtis recorded, had Judd’s own words playing over a speaker, saying, among other things, “I can never anticipate what is going to push me over the edge.”

    The full transcript of the recording shows solid proof that Ashly Judd should NEVER hold ANY public office.

    Debra J.M. Smith
    Informing Christians Journalist/Activist

  • BreakingDeadMen

    Too bad you aren’t interested in breaking news. Sucks to be you.

  • http://hammernews.com/ hammermann

    Well, nice you report on Curtis’s consistent excellence as you give him the boot with high-minded hypocrisies. You will never hire an “activist” again? Including anyone with connections to Big Tobacco, or land speculation, or horse racing, or whatever the other dominant powers in your oligarchic state. Who owns your paper, pays your wages? You think there was no activism in Watergate? If you don’t have the passion or the scepticism, you don’t get the story, and you end up reporting official statements that you know are lies.

    And let’s be honest- McConnell is a slug so slimy he leaves a trail everywhere he goes- he is bought and paid for by every corporate interest and truly a disgrace to the people of Kentucky. He put the defeat of Obama over the fate of the country, overtly and repeatedly.

    And to the somewhat slow commentors, “wiretapping” involves a WIRE- that is phone line, or cell phone now, recording something from another room involves no crime. The only thing Curtis could be charged with is trespassing, if someone ordered him to leave and he didn’t.