The pool of political reporters in Kentucky will shrink a bit when Louisville Courier Journal reporter Stephenie Steitzer goes to work for Churchill Downs. She made her last appearance on Comment on Kentucky last Friday night. She joins a growing line of reporters taking jobs outside mainstream media.
Host of Comment Ferrell Wellman knows well the rigors of mainstream journalism. He left his gig as a television reporter to become a lecturer at Eastern Kentucky University. He’s now retired from the University. Al Cross, whose specialty at the Courier Journal was political analysis also left to become director of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues. www.ruraljournalism.org
Mark Hebert left the camera behind to become spokesman for the University of Louisville. Chuck Wolfe, of the Associated Press, is now spokesman for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
The Paducah Sun lost a veteran reporter when Bill Bartleman retired. He’s going to be working for Mid-Continent University in Mayfield. Bartleman racked up around forty years as a newspaperman.
Others have left the mainstream media but remain in journalism. Ryan Alessi, formerly of the Courier Journal, now interviews newsmakers and creates original content for CN2/Politics. Bill Bishop, now in Austin, Texas, writes and researches for online rural advocacy site The Daily Yonder.
Steitzer can anticipate going from the deadline driven pressure cooker life of a reporter to a calmer, more organized life at a Kentucky track. There are sure to be crises aplenty at Kentucky’s best known thoroughbred race track, but she will be on the other side of the story doing damage control.
In rural areas, like the Purchase, small town newspaper editors combine reporting on car wrecks with ad sales, council meetings, layout and literally making sure the paper gets from the printer to the customer. Small town papers are now dealing with online competitors like Topix that have little if any ethical standards on what stories they “break” and what comments they carry. All forms of media now are expected to have an online components, websites, Facebook, Twitter.
Unlike Steitzer and her cohorts, small town journalists’ options to moving to another career generally involve getting completely out of the field. We know one former reporter who is now very happy working as a registered nurse, another former editor traded her sixty hour plus a week job in for work in an insurance office. There’s more money, fewer work hours and a fraction of the stress.