Yesterday was the final press run of the Cincinnati Post. Turn out the lights, the Post is over. Note that even the paper’s “obituary” was written by a freelance journalist, not one of the staff. Telling isn’t it? The full-time Post writers didn’t even care enough to write it.
By Lew Moores
The history of The Cincinnati Post and Kentucky Post in the last four decades has been something of an exquisite paradox – an afternoon newspaper that had managed to attract incredible talent and practice a scrappy brand of journalism over those years while staring inexorably into the face of declining revenues and, ultimately, business failure.
What had been thought to be inevitable – certainly in the past decade or so – becomes indisputable today as The Post will cease publication.
A consensus emerges among more than a few Post alumni – even in the last 30 years as it functioned under a Joint Operating Agreement with the Cincinnati Enquirer, The Post was a joyride filled with effervescent memories.
Many Post alumni have also found their way into careers outside journalism, contributing to the community in other ways.
The Post was where Ken Bunting, now associate publisher of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, practiced his incomparable brand of shoe-leather journalism. It was where Bob Mong, executive editor of the Dallas Morning News, was allowed to pursue hard-hitting, in-depth reporting. It was where Mike Blackman, who went on to become editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and Polk Laffoon IV, who went on to a remarkable career with Knight Ridder newspapers, both set the standards here in the ’70s for literary journalism.
It was where Michael Kelly cut his journalistic teeth in the early 1980s before moving on to the Baltimore Sun to the New York Times to the New Yorker to the New Republic to Atlantic Monthly. His was a meteoric career before it ended tragically in April 2003 when he was killed covering the early stages of the war in Iraq.
“The Post spawned a whole bunch of really interesting talent that left Cincinnati richer for the journalism they practiced,” recalls William R. Burleigh, chairman of the E.W. Scripps Co., parent company of The Post, and Post editor-in-chief from 1977 to 1983. “I think it was because The Post was always the underdog, and as a result was able to be not quite as conventional as the other paper in town and could afford some risks.”
The Post will also leave a legacy of service to the community in the many people who worked there who have gone on to serve in other community roles. Judy Clabes, for example, is president and CEO of the Scripps Howard Foundation, the philanthropic arm of E.W. Scripps, in addition to serving in a variety of other community roles. She was editor-in-chief of the Kentucky Post for 13 years, 1983 to 1996.
“My philosophy was we had to be connected to the community,” says Clabes. “I think we accomplished that. The staff was really connected to the community.”
Proof of that is former staffers who moved on and yet remained in the area and state. Jay Fossett, city manager of Covington since 2005, worked as a reporter and in an editing role on the sports desk at The Kentucky Post from 1981 to 1985.
J. Patrick Moynahan is a vice provost at Northern Kentucky University who worked at the Kentucky Post from 1984 to 1991, serving as city editor and assistant managing editor.
Mike Farrell, who worked at The Kentucky Post for 20 years as a reporter and managing editor, is the director of the Scripps Howard First Amendment Center at the University of Kentucky, where he teaches journalism.
Mark Neikirk, former reporter, city editor and managing editor, is now executive director of the Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement and Nonprofit Development at Northern Kentucky University.
Paul Knue, who had one of the longest tenures at both the Cincinnati and Kentucky Post among editors-in-chief, grew up in Lawrenceburg, Ind., reading The Post. He worked in Cincinnati from 1970 to 1975 as a copy editor and Weekender editor, left for Evansville, Ind., for another Scripps paper, returned as Kentucky Post editor in 1979, became Cincinnati Post editor in1983 and retired in 2001.
“We may be behind the eight-ball, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be pound for pound as good a newspaper as anybody else,” said Knue of his first years as editor here, with the JOA already in place. “We aimed for a culture that says we’re gonna work our asses off, we’re gonna kick butt, we’re gonna work harder.”