The women of Anderson County deserve better – Part 2

ON BOOTS AND BOURBON

In the December 1 issue of The Anderson News, there was a front page, above-the-fold story titled “Police, EMS, called to Boots and Bourbon event,” about first responders being called, and attending to, an intoxicated woman.

Mr. Carlson went on to write in his opinion column, “The Stave Fest and Boots and Bourbon both receive taxpayer funding though the tourism commission, with Stave coming in the form of a sponsorship and Boots the form of a grant. Yet there hasn’t been a single incident involving someone being overly intoxicated or someone else allegedly threatening people and pushing them around. Believe me, I checked.”

I also checked.

On September 7, 2019, a week after he’d been released on bond wherein one of his bond conditions was ‘no consumption of alcohol,’ a man violated that bond at Stave Fest. Someone contacted law enforcement. An officer gave have him a Portable Breath Test. He blew .048. His bond was subsequently revoked.

Which leads me to the following questions:

  1. Is the play-by-play of an intoxicated woman receiving help from first responders — even at an event that received $750 of taxpayer funds — a front page, above-the-fold story?
  2. Mr. Carlson did not contact the organizer and host of the event, Meredith Lewis, as any journalist would, to ask her what happened. Why?
  3. Would Mr. Carlson have published this story on the front page if the event were hosted by someone else, a man perhaps?

I contacted Ms. Lewis. “Once I was made aware of the situation,” she said. “I requested off-duty EMS staff [who was already present at the event] to assess the situation and tell me what I needed to do. He said call 911. I asked him to do it.”

Here are the details. There were 217 attendees / ticket holders. Ms. Lewis said the tasting and bar service began close to 7 pm. The bar was located in the kitchen area, blocked off, and drinks were served by wait staff. Dinner was served starting at 7:15 pm and there were 2 meats, 3 or 4 vegetables, pasta salad, and desserts. The show started about 8 pm and was over by 10:30. Sometime during the evening, Ms. Lewis lost one of the wait staff due to a death in the family, so she was then serving more than 200 people with only 3 cocktail servers.

Everyone Ms. Lewis paid to help with this event were local: 6 high school students to bus tables and cleanup, 4 waitresses, 1 bartender, 1 coordinator, and there were 2 people leading tastings, plus Ms. Lewis. Workers ate for free.

The following is a list of local businesses who participated in this year’s Boots and Bourbon event:

Splatter Inc
J Bailey
Lovers Leap
Walmart
Wildcat Liquor
Heavens 2 Betsy
Bluegrass Sabor
Local Marketing
Local Website
Central Copy
LW Graphics
Lawrenceburg Flower Shop
Elly Cakes
Sweet Mash
Trail Suites
Brown Barn Candle
Lawrenceburg Candy Cottage

Also:
Hill of Beans(Local Owner/Craig Watkins)
Springfield Laundry(Local reps/Mark Lilly & Adam Castle)
TOPS in Lex (local photographer/Woody Phillips)

Donations: Bauer Candy & Off the Ground for welcome baskets.

Per Ms. Lewis, money made from Boots and Bourbon helps to fund arts programming, but the main reason is to promote tourism and to benefit local businesses. More than $11,500 was pumped back into community businesses by using/shopping local, in addition to the money out-of-town attendees spent at our hotels, restaurants, and shopping.

Mr. Carlson is right, taxpayers have a right to know what they received for their investment — and the answer is: All of the above for $750, less than the cost of an iPhone.

Mr. Carlson then wrote in his opinion column, “The best way to have parties of this sort not end up in the newspaper is to not have the taxpayers subsidize them.”

What does he mean by “parties of this sort?” A party where alcohol is served, in a place known as The Bourbon Trail? A party hosted out in the county, by a woman?

ON THE GOVERNOR’S VISIT

On Tuesday, November 30, Governor Andy Beshear came to Lawrenceburg to present more than $1 million in grant money to fund water, sewer, and road improvements.

The Anderson News gave no advance notice of the governor’s visit. When other politicians come to town — Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, and just this past Saturday James Tipton and Adrienne Southworth — the newspaper and/or its attendant Facebook page normally provide notice.

I attended the event and found the newspaper’s coverage, or lack thereof, odd.

  1. Why was no advance public notice given on our newspaper’s Facebook page? And why were no photos of the event — photos of big, daily events are almost always shared — posted there?
  2. The story about the governor’s visit appeared low on page 6. How is this not a front page story?
  3. Former County Attorney Bobbi Jo Lewis — a woman who served Anderson County for 17 years and who now serves in the governor’s transportation cabinet as Commissioner of Rural and Municipal Aid — coordinated fund approval and delivery. Commissioner Lewis attended the event; she was recognized by everyone from the Judge Executive to the Mayor to the Governor himself for her work; she is the first such commissioner to come from Anderson County. And yet our newspaper never mentioned her. Why?

ON ASKING BASIC FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS

There was a story titled “County attorney makes promise, keeps it,” in the December 8 issue of The Anderson News wherein County Attorney Robert Wiedo is pictured giving a $6,500 donation to Open Hands Food Pantry. I applaud this gift, as it is both generous and needed, and it is indicative of the generosity of the hundreds, if not thousands, of Anderson County residents who give all they can to support local, regional, and other charities. There are so many good people here, and for that we are extremely fortunate, and thankful.

My questions about the article lie elsewhere.

From a strictly editorial perspective, it is suspect to see so many stories — week after week, all positive, no hard questions, rarely even a follow up question — about one man running for a re-election that will take place in 5 months.

And while the headline and photo are about giving, the bulk of the article is not.

CA Wiedo’s statements beg obvious, basic follow-up questions that have either not been asked or the answers not printed. Below are CA Wiedo’s quotes and the follow-up questions that any journalist would have asked:

“When [Gov.] Beshear closed small businesses in March 2020, I noticed a few local politicians preach that ‘we are in this together,’ yet I observed good people struggling while these same politicians continued to draw their checks, completely unaffected,” and “I am sorry, but we are not all in this together and these politicians with gifted positions should do more.”

  1. What are the names of the “local politicians?”
  2. Why do you believe they did not need a paycheck?
  3. How do you know they were “completely unaffected?” Do you know them personally? Give me an example.
  4. What do you mean by “politicians with gifted positions?”
  5. You said they should do more. Who are “they” and how do you know what they are doing/giving?

“My business got shut down … literally,” he said. “I was told to shut the doors, send people home and go file for unemployment.”

  1. You were not running a public-facing business. Why would your business get shut down?
  2. You say you were told to shut the doors, send people home and go file for unemployment. Who told you this?

“Some people were still drawing paychecks and it wasn’t having any impact on them?”

  1. You said “some people.” Are you referring to the female county attorney at the time?
  2. Are you suggesting she should have voluntarily asked to stop receiving a paycheck?
  3. How do you personally know the pandemic “wasn’t having any impact on” her?

“I had three months of zero income …”

  1. You were an attorney in private practice. People had a continuing, ongoing need for legal representation during the pandemic. Why did you choose to cease doing business, taking “zero income?”

It should be noted that 100% of the responsibility here lies with Mr. Carlson. Any journalist, and certainly the editor of a newspaper, would have asked these questions. An interviewee is not responsible for answering questions he is not asked.

So why did Mr. Carlson not ask a single, obvious, followup question? And should this half-page article — which could be viewed as an otherwise-expensive, campaign-type ad for a political candidate — have been published at all?

Which brings me to other questions I have asked that remain unanswered:

On October 20, the editor quoted CA Wiedo as saying, “During that transition period we simply had to make due [sic] and we did the best that we could.”

Why did Mr. Wiedo decide not to hire, even if for a transition period, any of the the 3 women who had working knowledge of the office?

Mr. Carlson has written extensively about last year’s alleged “difficult” transition in the county attorney’s office, but has yet to offer proof. With one phone call, I obtained documents that show otherwise and portions of those documents were included in my October 27 published letter to The Anderson News. Why has Mr. Carlson never asked the former county attorney — a professional woman with decades of experience — for those documents?

The newspaper editor is the most powerful person in the county. He determines what makes the news and what does not; he decides what is urgent / breaking news; he directs public discourse toward this and away from that; he can discourage citizens who fear him from participating in civic life or running for office.

The women of Anderson County deserve better.



END NOTES:

The fact that Mr. Carlson continues to ignore basic questions that are in the public interest, some of which have been asked more than once, is puzzling. I list them here, yet again:

Re: blocking commenters.
Why did the editor block teachers and others from commenting on the newspaper’s Facebook page while there are often folks who post angry, inflammatory comments that are never removed?

Re: editor’s use of the phrase “local Squad and its acolytes.”
Who comprises said Squad? What are their names? Are they specifically Hispanic women? Women of color? All women? All Democrats? Liberals in general? The editor needs to clarify.

Re: covid deaths.
Why has the editor never listed Covid-19 as the cause of any of the 57 deaths in Anderson County? Has he contacted any family members to ask if they would like to speak, on the record, to encourage others to be vaccinated?

Re: masks.
Why did the editor choose to present exclusively the perspective of an occupational therapist but nothing from a local woman doctor board certified in public health and emergency medicine?