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October 9, 2023

At UK, new Herald-Leader editor says he will maintain paper’s excellence with help from the public

By Kakie Urch and Al Cross

Richard A. “Rick” Green speaks at the School of Journalism and Media's Meet The Editor event on Oct. 3.

Richard A. “Rick” Green speaks at the School of Journalism and Media's Meet The Editor event on Oct. 3.

The new editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader said at the University of Kentucky this week that he will uphold the newspaper’s history of excellence and seek donations from the public so he can hire more reporters.

“We need go out in the community and sell our mission, to tell you what you can expect from this great newspaper. We need philanthropic donors to help pay for some positions,” Richard A. “Rick” Green said Tuesday night, at an event sponsored by the School of Journalism and Media in UK’s College of Communication and Information.

“It’s my job as the guy who’s running the newsroom to be out there, and to ask philanthropic groups, foundations, family organizations,” Green said. “We can do even better work, but we need more help; we need more staffers. I’ll give you a tax break; we’ve got a nonprofit organization you can contribute to. I can find some incredibly talented journalists, but we’re going to need your help.”

Green praised his news staff, but told the audience, “As talented as that team is, it’s not big enough. . . . Our staff’s not as big as it once was, not as big as it needs to be, but I’ll tell you tonight, not as big as it’s going to be, but I need your help.”

Green started as executive editor of the Herald-Leader Sept. 25. Just eight days later, on National News Engagement Day, Oct. 3, he met with journalism students, professional journalists and the public at UK’s Singletary Center for the Arts.

He said the Herald-Leader, which has won seven Pulitzer Prizes and is owned by California-based McClatchy Co., has a history of excellence that he will seek to uphold – toward continued public service and support of democracy.

Asked about political coverage in a divided time, Green said “Nothing is as important to me as an informed electorate. I think information brings civility. That’s why our job is so important, right?”

Asked if the Herald-Leader would print less frequently, he said “It’s gotten happen, unfortunately,” perhaps with a shift of delivery from carriers to mail, as many smaller daily newspapers have done.

Green, with family roots in Lawrence County, grew up in rural Ohio and has been the top editor of the Cincinnati Enquirer, The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, the Des Moines Register, the Bergen County (N.J.) Record, the Louisville Courier Journal and The Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif., recently named the best newspaper of its size in California.

Under Green, the Courier Journal won a Pulitzer Prize in 2020 for its coverage of gubernatorial pardons and was a finalist in two categories in 2021 for its coverage of the police killing of Breonna Taylor, the story that Green said was his toughest. The Courier Journal’s joint reporting project with ABC News on the story won a Peabody Award.

Green said that in coming to Lexington after Louisville, he’s like a “reverse Rick Pitino,” the basketball coach who did the reverse.

Before Green’s talk, the UK and Bluegrass Pro chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists hosted receptions for Green, who held an in-depth session with students.

Katelyn Perkins, a UK senior in sports journalism who attended the event, said “I loved Mr. Green’s speech. I thought his opening line was very authentic and not fake, about how he doesn’t do prepared speeches and I like that.  I also like how he focused on community how that was his main thing and how he focused on protecting people who can’t protect themselves. I think he’ll do a great job at the Herald-Leader.”

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