Readers of the Lexington Herald Leader opened their Sunday paper this weekend to a full page ad saluting the news organization for its coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. “It was a wonderful message for our staff to see on Sunday morning,” editor and general manager Peter Baniak said in an email
Signed by 20 civic leaders and business owners, the ad expressed appreciation to the paper’s staff “for their commitment to covering COVID-19 and its impact in our community.”
Signers were a cross-section of political and community leadership, including Kelly Craft, a top Republican fundraiser and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Ben Self, the chairman of the Kentucky Democratic Party.
Lindy Karns, who was campaign treasurer for Democratic Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s campaign and is a long-time friend of Craft’s, initiated the ad effort after seeing a Herald Leader request for readers to subscribe to the paper.
“I am an old timey newspaper reader; grew up reading two newspapers every day,” she said in an email. “My husband and I subscribe to the print and online editions of the paper. The Lexington Herald Leader has done a yeoman’s job of trying to keep the community informed both about COVID 19 news as well as about businesses, charities and other community events, and doing it without charge.”
“I started thinking about other ways we could support the reporters and others, and I thought of this ad,” she said. “I reached out to other community spirited people I knew that day, and in a very short time, and a few phone calls, was able to collect enough folks to pay for an ad, thanking the HL and its staff.”
“I may not agree with everything the Herald Leader says, but I do believe it critical to have a local newspaper,” she added. “And those folks are knocking themselves out.”
At the newspaper, Baniak has conducted a series of town halls for the community in partnership with CivicLex, a non-partisan organization devoted to expanding democratic participation.
“We already know through measures like digital readership and engagement and emails and social media and Letters to the Editor that the community has been turning to us and really connecting with our coverage throughout the last few months,” he said. “But to see the appreciation expressed in that way, signed by that group, means a lot.”