Late last week, WHAS conservative talk show host Mandy Connell broke the news conservative columnist and Sen. Mitch McConnell biographer John David Dyche was leaving the Courier-Journal – after we did something we’d never done since our founding in 2010.
We passed on a big story.
But when you understand the entire story, I hope you’ll come away with a new appreciation for what a difficult space digital news is at this transitional moment.
Just because we have the technical ability to immediately post news doesn’t necessarily mean we exercise that capability without thinking through what we’re doing.
And to the point John David Dyche makes about journalistic transparency in his now famous “column the Courier-Journal wouldn’t run,” I’m going to be forthcoming about what happens behind the curtain at Insider Louisville.
About a year ago, I started emailing John David Dyche, trying to recruit him from the Courier-Journal. I enjoyed John David’s fluent but pointed style, his sophisticated choice of topics and the vigor with which he addressed them.
I even agreed with a little bit of what he wrote.
Whatever our philosophical differences, I admire his courage for going boldly where the CJ rarely goes these days, aggressively holding Kentucky pols – liberal and conservative – accountable for their lapses in judgment and ethics.
I saw John David as Louisville’s David Brooks, my favorite columnist.
But John David had an agreement with the CJ, an arrangement we couldn’t match. And I got the feeling he wasn’t interested in a start-up.
I persisted, trying to get him to sit down for coffee. But fate intervened and IL executives had to reschedule due to family medical emergencies and illnesses.
Last Wednesday, John David sent me the rejected column, stating, “I just left the Courier-Journal after they censored me. Do with this as you will.”
My instinct was, “Post. It. Now.”
But the adults in the room said, “Hold on. Let’s consider what we’re doing.”
First, there were concerns about John David’s core argument: “The newspaper business is failing because it’s biased.”
Not true. The industry is failing for the same reason people (other than cowboys) don’t ride horses to work any more. There are more convenient options. Daily newspapers – liberal and conservative – are failing because people have iPads via which they access an infinite amount of information from infinite online sources, whenever they please.
His recommendations are equally flawed including a requirement the CJ divulge the political allegiances of reporters and editors.
Second, IL trumpeting John David’s column had a whiff of schadenfreud. It’s one thing to report on mass departures of CJ talent and executives. It’s quite another to embrace a flawed riposte knowing the CJ editorial execs will never defend their position.
Finally, if we were going to stick out necks out, we wanted to say, “despite the flaws of this particular piece, we see the merits of having a regular conservative voice – along with a regular liberal contributor – and John David is our guy.”
Alas, he got frustrated with how slowly (we’d argue “deliberately”) we were moving.
“A lot of stuff seems to fall through the cracks with you guys.”
The one point we all agreed on at Insider Louisvile was, if John David had written his post about IL, we would’ve posted it because dissent is good.
Dissent is liberating.
Ultimately, John David moved on to Mandy Connell, who greeted him with open arms. Probably a better ideological fit. And as far as I know, he’s given up on writing for Insider Louisville.
So, now you know.
We knew John David Dyche leaving the CJ would be a topic everyone would be talking about this weekend.
Now, it’s becoming a national story.
Shame on us for being timid?
This city has other conservative lights. Potential stars who come without baggage.
And of course, the obvious question is, “Where does John David Dyche end up?
At LEO? At WFPL? At WDRB TV?
And that may be the most interesting element to this development: As the conventional media deteriorate, who ends up with the talent?