We at Insider Louisville understand how important Kentucky Derby media coverage is to future prosperity.

If the nation and the world see an undiscovered jewel – progressive, arty, sophisticated and prosperous – someday (please God!) we’ll move away from solely being identified with bourbon and thoroughbreds.

Not that we don’t like bourbon and horses, but frankly, financial centers such as New York, Atlanta and Chicago are in the national spotlight every day.

So, we want to be more like them when we grow up.

How are we doing? Mixed bag.

The Good

  • The Wall Street Journal, with its huge resources and huger audience, can’t get enough of Louisville or the 2011 Kentucky Derby. Today, a “Days at the Races” post on the Concierge section of the WSJ site boldly notes what we’ve known all along: Louisville has more going for it than a horse race!

The post is by local writer Zach Everson, and it’s cool to see his take transmitted to the 15.5 million visitors per month to the WSJ website. Though we find it odd how Everson pimped the WSJ story on Louisville.com, and even odder that the WSJ doesn’t identify him as a local freelance writer.

Anyway, here’s how we look to the WSJ readers:

After the drab winter, Louisvillians shoot from the starting gate, resuming their rituals of picnicking in the 389-acre, Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Cherokee Park, dining al fresco along the nearby Bardstown Road and taking in Louisville Bats Class AAA baseball games at Louisville Slugger Field. Last year, the 1875-founded Churchill Downs added lights to its track, making way for the Friday night social-coaster that is Downs After Dark, a stylish but less formal, exorbitant and crowded affair than the Derby.

Located on the Indiana border, Louisville manages to be both genteel South and sensible Midwest. One local house of worship recently attracted press for its bring-your-guns-to-church day, while another nabbed headlines by refusing to sign marriage licenses for straight couples until gay unions were legally accepted too.

The post also includes a quickie on famous Louisvillians’ favorite local destinations: Jim James, My Morning Jacket frontman, author Sue Grafton, 610 Magnolia Chef Edward Lee and Laura Lee Brown.

As we posted Thursday, Brown and Steve Wilson already have hit the national media jackpot with 21c Museum Hotel and Proof on Main – so much fawning coverage we can’t include it all here.

That includes a Friday WSJ post,  “Old Kentucky with a Twist,” about the couple’s two passions – urban projects, and their 1,000-acre buffalo farm out in Goshen.

A few tiny criticisms: Winters ain’t that bad here. Also, the print version of “Old Kentucky with a Twist” is a D6 lead into the WSJ’s real estate section and almost blends in to glitzy ads for Chicago penthouses and Houston mansions. And it’s black and white! Underwhelming, but newspapers always are. Also, why did the WSJ devote so much ink to Brown and Wilson while overlooking Gill and Augusta Holland, who make movies and build Green Buildings when they’re not reinventing the blighted East Market street area into Nulu?

  • In “Bourbon Balls Give a Sweet Kick to Kentucky Derby,” longtime NPR reporter Linda Worthheimer dedicated a full 3:35 Morning Edition segment to chocolatier Erika Chavez-Graziano and her bourbon balls.

Chavez-Graziano owns Cellar Door Chocolates in Butchertown Market, 1201 Story Ave.

Chaves-Graziano comes off sounding like a sophisticated business owner, explaining that her business will produce 800 pounds of bourbon balls, or 30,000 individual pieces for Derby. Multiply that times $10 or $15 a pound for chocolate, and it’s a very sweet business, indeed. Bourbon balls become a tasty way to capture why Derby is so incredibly important commercially to us.

One tiny little criticism: The story keeps talking about Chavez-Graziano’s “shop in downtown Louisville.” If only. She’s a full mile away in a completely different area. If only there were such a shop downtown, where we could use a lot more retail.

The Bad

  • The Washington Post fails miserably with this puff “business story” they picked up from Associated Press.  “Ky. Derby spending recovers from downturn; revelers packing hotels, restaurants, shops” is fairly information free. It has some generalities and anecdotal information about how – shockingly – a recovery Derby is better than one in the middle of the worst recession since The Great Depression. The “reporter” gives us penetrating insights such as this: “Business couldn’t be better for this Derby,” said Rita Reedy, a marketing director for the company that owns the Galt House. No figures on Galt House occupancy. No top Derby rates. “Nothin.’ Pitiful,” to quote Jed Clampett.

To ad insult to injury, the piece centers on that culinary pride of Louisville, Sully’s Restaurant and Saloon on Fourth Street Live. Jeez, what the people of DC must think of us.

The Ugly

  • For pure unadulterated pandering crap, it’s hard to beat USA Today’s “story” today about stars descending on Louisville, “Kate Gosselin hits Derby party.” Filed the day after the Barnstable Brown party, this story by Lorena Blas is meant to snare unsuspecting celebrity addicts via a search engine optimization headline. When they get here, they’re bound to be incredibly disappointed. No color. No atmospherics. No reporting. Just a list of names. And this titillating item: “Among the celebrity party guests spotted last night: Reality TV mama Kate Gosselin. She showed up at the Barnstable Brown Derby party in a little black and gold strapless number.” Sheeesh. Who reads this crap?

More as coverage continues ….

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Terry Boyd
Terry Boyd has seven years experience as a business/finance journalist, and eight years a military reporter with European Stars and Stripes. As a banking and finance reporter at Business First, Boyd dealt directly with the most influential executives and financiers in Louisville.

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