Courier-Journal ignores reality on Jim Ramsey’s compensation

Jim Ramsey

Would someone please explain why the Courier-Journal is devoting so much time and space to Jim Ramsey’s compensation package? If Ramsey had accomplished the equivalent of what he has done at the University of Louisville in the private sector, his remuneration would be at least five times as much as he is currently paid.

The newspaper’s management is apparently unable to grasp the enormity of what Ramsey has accomplished. Since he assumed the post in 2002, he has transformed UofL from a sleepy commuter school into a national player on many fronts. The University today enjoys a $1 billion endowment that was not conceivable a decade ago.

Either that or some highly-placed individual at the CJ is resentful of the tremendous strides being made at UofL. They do a disservice to the community by refusing to acknowledge that UofL was not content with the status quo. That UofL chose to separate itself from the pack of urban universities by applying creative and innovative approaches to growing the University of Louisville brand.

They’re missing out on the most relevant story of all, a then-and-now perspective on the progress on Belknap Campus, the Health Science Campus and Shelby Campus. They could easily devote an entire section on UofL, solicit advertising, and the newspaper could actually make some money for a change.

The CJ reports inevitably include so-called studies of compensation rates at other universities, as if UofL should impose limits on itself in achieving its aspirations by being average. This is inconsistent with the Post Secondary Educational Improvement Act, passed by the Kentucky General Assembly in 1997, in which UofL was given the mandate of becoming a preeminent metropolitan research university.

The University of Louisville, under Ramsey, is making inroads toward that goal despite annual cuts in state education funding, thanks to the staff’s impressive fundraising and development efforts and the assistance of the UofL Foundation. Giving is at an all-time high, helping to offset the funding cuts. Meanwhile, Ramsey has turned down more than $1 million in compensation increases since 2012.

One suspects there are individuals at the Courier-Journal who do not have the best interests of the University in mind. There are some Gubernatorial appointments to the UofL board who have competing interests as well.

Thankfully, however, those individuals comprise a small minority on the board, outnumbered by those board members who recognize that what Ramsey has achieved for UofL is unprecedented. They will continue to see through the distractions created by the malcontents with conflicts of interest and the local newspaper with a distorted sense of journalism.

Courier-Journal suffers major blow with losses of Eric Crawford and Rick Bozich

I’ve often wondered whether the publication would survive without them. Now we’re about to find out.

During all the recent personnel cutbacks at the Courier-Journal in recent years, the management always recognized the value of sports columnists Eric Crawford and Rich Bozich, with their years of experience and insight into the local sports scene. They were close to being indispensable.

The C-J announced Monday that Crawford and Bozich are both leaving to accept positions at WDRB TV. Huge blow, a double whammy for the company, losses from which the newspaper won’t soon recover.

Sports fans will lose, too. TV coverage, because of time constraints, will never ever provide the depth and breadth of print media. The two will probably enhance WDRB’s Internet presence but who wants to turn on a computer before consuming the sports news with their bacon and eggs.

Crawford, in particular, is among the best ever at C-J, which has had some exceptional writers. Like Dave Kindred, one of his noted predecessors, he is blessed with an intellect to examine highly complex issues, ably sharing his knowledge. As a result, his readers are better informed than the average sports fan. I’ve never sensed any bias when it comes to issues involving either the universities of Louisville or Kentucky. He seems to care deeply for both of them, wanting them to succeed.

Bozich is as much a reporter as a columnist, more of an analyst than a provider of solutions. I’ve never sensed any special affection for either university, covering them equally and objectively, depending on the issue, as any journalism professional would approach the task. This is the approach in a recent column that enabled him to deal effectively with the back and forth pettiness between John Calipari and Rick Pitino.

For me, most of the stories in the sports section get a glimpse and a quick turn of the page, unless they are U of L related. But the columns of Eric Crawford and Rick Bozich were must reading. They have always been responsive to readers as well, open and generous with their feedback, especially Crawford.

Their leaving says much about the state of Louisville’s daily newspaper.

Eric Crawford blog

Creig Ewing new sports editor at Courier-Journal

The Courier-Journal has yet to make an announcement, possibly out of respect for the 19 members of the editorial staff who took early retirement Thursday.

Creig Ewing has been named the new executive sports editor. Possibly an encouraging sign for Charlie Strong, Ewing also hailing from deep in the heart of football country.

A graduate of the University of Central Florida where he graduated magna cum laude and majored in English and English Literature, Ewing joined the C-J in 1998 as assistant sports editor.  Before that he held a similar post at the Orlando Sentinel, where he had worked since 1983 coving high school, college and professional sports.

Ewing succeeds Harry Bryan who held the position 24 of his 36 years at the Courier-Journal.

Other early retirees from the editorial staff, according to an Eric Crawford post on Facebook, were:  Pam Spaulding, Mark Provano, Mike Upsall, Arlene Jacobson, Pat O’Connor, Roy Walter,  Joe Baldwin, Carolyn Yetter, Keith Runyon, Steve Ford, Ben Hershberg, Larry Muhammad, Ken Neuhauser, Patrick Howington, Dale Moss, Ralph Dunlop, Ric Manning and Ed O’Donoghue

Media ban will be a magnet for Louisville football

The word from Charlie Strong’s office is that the local media is banned for the remainder of the University of Louisville football’s spring practice sessions.

Is the coach miffed about all the basketball coverage in recent weeks that forced football to a couple of paragraphs deep inside the Courier-Journal? One shouldn’t be surprised. The C-J seems to have plenty of ink and personnel for basketball but little for football.

Kentucky teams advancing into the NCAA Final Four were accompanied by WAR-sized headlines on the front page, sports sections and special sections. This from a publication shrinking in terms of number of pages, stretching the newspaper’s resources to the limit.

While Strong recognizes the significance of the Final Four, he has to wonder about the over-the-top coverage. He came to Louisville from Florida where football never ever takes a back seat to basketball. There are only four states in the union where that could happen — Kentucky, Indiana, Kansas and North Carolina — states that have never enjoyed much success in football.

The C-J exploits the fanatical obsession with basketball on a year-round basis, despite the indisputable fact that football is the premier sport in college athletics.   The rest of the country emits a collective yawn, goes to bed early during the championship basketball game and quickly refocuses its attention on how spring football practice is going. Like the name of last year’s Kentucky Derby winner, many sports fans will have already forgotten in two months who won the NCAA basketball tournament.

There’s also the possibility that Strong is making some major changes in the playbook or in personnel, changes he wants to keep quiet as much as possible in a micro sports world. But we doubt it. Some argue that it may be foolish to ban the local media, that it’s counter-productive. That may be but he finally has their attention.

Now that the newspaper and other media have been banned from practice sessions, we can expect a resurgence of interest in UofL football. Nothing peaks media interest into a situation more than being denied access to it. They’ll be back in a couple of days, count on it.

Strong knows from firsthand experience what happens when a community or a state has had sustained success in college football. That’s what he says he is committed to bringing to Louisville. For that to happen, he also has to educate the local media in the process, one stuck in the yesteryears of football mediocrity, getting all of its jollies on another sport.

Favorite columnist survives another round of Courier-Journal layoffs

Fifty more people, most of them from the news room, have been laid off by the Courier-Journal in the latest round of cuts by the Gannett Corporation. That brings the number to 145 since 2008.

Never good when people lose their jobs but there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of sympathy in the community for a publication that once seemed invincible during economic downturns.

Eric Crawford (Card Game photo)

Certainly not from University of Louisville fans who have tolerated the overabundance of University of Kentucky coverage for decades, often at the expense of the local university. And definitely not from the fiscally and politically moderate and conservative readers who have been forcefed the liberal bent of the news coverage and opinion pages.

The first person who comes to the oberver’s mind during each of these layoff announcements is sports columnist Eric Crawford. There’s always a sense of relief when his name is not on the list.

The son of former WHAS-TV reporter and CJ columnist Byron Crawford, Eric is arguably the best sportswriter and analyst the newspaper has had since the days of Dave Kindred. He consistently does his research while providing balance and introspective into most issues.

Crawford admitted to me once that he grew up a Kentucky fan in Shelby County, but he has never shown any reluctance to take on Big Blue partisans — or U of L fanatics for that matter — when their institution is on the wrong side of an issue. He challenged, for example, the wisdom of hiring John Calipari when the background was clearly questionable.

We did wonder, however, why he would side with UK against the NCAA on the premature celebration of Calipari’s “500th win” when 42 of those “wins” had been vacated by the governing organization. But for the most part, Crawford is about as objective as they come.

The Courier-Journal/Gannett would be foolish to lay off a personality like Crawford and we don’t honestly expect to see his name on the layoff list anytime soon. If there is one, he would be the indispensable asset, at least for now with the importance of sports in the editorial mix.

But as the number of pages in daily newspapers diminish, along with the width and length of those pages, Crawford has to be thinking about where all of this is leading. The future isn’t great, even for the online edition of the publication. The personal dynamics of his chosen profession are changing in ways he never could have imagined a few years ago, and they are changing very quickly

As he notes in his blog today, “Newspapers are down three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, and the clock is ticking.” Eric is too creative, talented, responsible and savvy not to have a more secure future elsewhere. We will continue to enjoy reading his column for now, and wish him well, now and in the future.