A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Constance Alexander: Online resources can help in getting the straight scoop on complicated issues

“In today’s digital age, it can often be challenging for consumers to determine what information is truly reliable. But whether it goes by the name of ‘propaganda,’ ‘hype,’ or ‘spin,’ it is possible for news readers to identify ‘fake news’ and avoid it entirely.” So said Laura Harvey, a reporter for The Messenger, Madisonville’s newspaper, in a recent article about how discerning...

Constance Alexander: A lesson about living gracefully as flowers fade and summer ends

The hydrangeas are past their peak. Blue-green fades gracefully to a luminous, pearly luster, while rose-colored bursts ease toward rust. Brawny weeds and muscular green leaves threaten to overpower, yet they seem unconcerned. Grazed by a gentle breeze, they nod their shaggy heads and bow, still cheerful as summer ends. Years ago, I wrote a piece about the last roses. Mourning their loss before it...

Constance Alexander: Rita Dragonette’s new novel explores coming-of-age conflicts, conscience, war

Every would-be novelist struggles to explain what sets her fiction apart from others. The alphabet soup of categories begins with action/adventure, beach books, and classics, and goes on to include romance, science fiction, westerns, and zen. Every once in a while, however, a writer ventures into territory that has not yet been claimed, and Rita Dragonette’s first novel is one of those.   Set in...

Constance Alexander: ‘All the King’s Men’ sparks conversations about politics, power and corruption

Six hundred-sixty-one. That’s a passel of pages to read. Just figuring out how long it takes to reach the end of such an epic is exhausting; nevertheless, “All the King’s Men” is worth the slog. The novel begins like a travelogue, giving directions to Mason City on Highway 58. It could be a description of driving on the West Kentucky Parkway: “…straight for miles, coming at you, with the...

Constance Alexander: Logan County’s South Union settlement celebrates Shaker tradition of equality

When I was growing up, “Life” was a staple in my house. Joan, my piano teacher’s daughter, worked for the weekly magazine. I glanced admiringly at her name on the masthead every week; it was an honor to know someone with such a glamorous job. Occasionally, a front cover made a memorable impression. For instance, when I was about five years old, there was one featuring Marilyn Monroe in a clingy...

Constance Alexander: Local news organizations are an important part of the fabric of our communities

When photojournalist Joshua McKerrow was asked what plans the Capital Gazette had for going forward after the slaughter of five of the Annapolis newspaper’s employees, his answer was simple: “We’ll just get back to work,” he said. “You know, July 4 is next week. We’ve got to cover the parade.” McKerrow answered without hesitation, with no thought that coverage of community news would...

Constance Alexander: Commonwealth Honors Academy celebrates 18 years of Dr. Randall Black

No banners, no clubhouse, no colorful posters, not even a bonafide membership card, but back in 2002 the Dr. Randall Black Fan Club did have an official tee-shirt. Elizabeth Cawein, the unofficial president, remembers honoring the object of her dorm floor’s affections when she and scores of other rising high school seniors participated in the Commonwealth Honors Academy (CHA) at Murray State University. A...

Constance Alexander: A nation that went to the moon should be able to solve today’s complex problems

Families got a package deal on tonsillectomies when I was a child. At least that is how it seems to me as I reflect on my experience. I was the one with constant sore throats and upper respiratory infections. My older sister Jeanne had none of those complaints, yet we had our tonsils out at the same time. Daddy stayed home from work, and my mother made us dress in church clothes, white gloves and...

Constance Alexander: Pulitzer Prize-winning musical ‘Next to Normal’ explores bipolar disorder

Demi Lovato, Russell Brand, Carrie Fisher — even adorable girl-next-door-who-happens-to-be-host-of-ever-popular CBS Sunday Morning, Jane Pauley – admit to bouts of bipolar disorder. Others in the spotlight have gone public with their struggles, and awareness of various mental disorders are discussed more openly now than they were a few years ago. But while the glitterati appear on talk shows...

Constance Alexander: Father’s Day tribute to an unconventional dad who ruled the dawn

Daddy talked back to the radio and TV when he disagreed with political news and views. He described the U.S.A. as “the greatest country in the world,” but stubbornly retained his Canadian citizenship. Father of five children, he left the details of our academic lives up to my mother, but had a reputation for relentless cross-examination of any potential suitor of one of his four daughters. Although...

Constance Alexander: As a teenager, a springtime drive along Main Street provided a lasting memory

In the northeast where I grew up, it was springtime until prom was over and graduation loomed. The promise of summer glimmered on the landscape, just barely out of reach. By early June, the days began to stretch out like a sinuous silk road that led to somewhere better, someplace special, something more exciting than a small town where you could tell time by the train whistles and the chimes of the...

Constance Alexander: Author Rick Bragg’s new book offers intimate look into his mother’s kitchen

Anyone who thinks the Calloway County Public Library doesn’t need more space for community gatherings should have been on hand for Rick Bragg’s visit the other day. The down-home writer typically attracts so many followers, the Friends of the Library asked people to sign up in advance to make sure there were enough chairs. The 118-plus who registered sat elbow to elbow in the library meeting room,...

Constance Alexander: Royal wedding spurs memory of a childhood fascination with fairy-tale lives

When we were little, my sister Jeanne and I were fascinated by England’s Royal Family. The children’s room at our local library had a couple of tell-all tales about Queen Elizabeth from girlhood to growing up, including her marriage to dashing Prince Philipp, their children, and her coronation. We read them from cover to cover more than once, relishing every detail. According to the pictures,...

Constance Alexander: A stint in the circus leads to a lifetime in the theater for Liz Bussey Fentress

My friend Liz gardens with gusto and doesn’t mind getting dirty as a result. She is also a beekeeper, a playwright, and a woman who knows her way around a sewing machine. She grew up in northern Wisconsin, youngest of four, in a family that values education and the environment. With scores of nieces and nephews, great and grand, she knits Fair Isle sweaters with ease. An actor and director with impressive...

Constance Alexander: Kentucky Derby evokes memories of Aunt Agnes, the odds-on favorite

Aunt Agnes was my favorite relative. She was out-spoken and creative. She lived on Rittenhouse Square, a lovely neighborhood in the City of Brotherly Love. She told stories about my mother when they were both little girls, and if Mother tried to correct her — or change the subject — Agnes just sailed on, deliberately oblivious. Aunt Agnes had a bookie. Whenever she and Uncle Pete came to...

Constance Alexander: Celebration of Kentucky writers attracts words for all seasons

A realtor, two feminists and an elected public official walk into a public meeting room… It could be the beginning of a joke, but those four — plus about 40 more random individuals — showed up last week to celebrate Kentucky Writers Day, National Poetry Month, and Shakespeare’s Birthday at the Calloway County Public Library. Dr. Bob Davies, President of Murray State University,...

Constance Alexander: Looking back on college graduation and a year of living dangerously

The first wave of the Baby Boomer generation graduated from college fifty years ago, but you can’t talk about the class of ‘68 without referring to the so-called Summer of Love, 1967. The season was not without strife. For the first time ever, American support for the war in Vietnam fell below 50 percent in opinion polls. News of riots in Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, Chicago, Detroit and elsewhere...

Constance Alexander: Calloway Co. Public Library to honor Kentucky writers during National Poetry Month

Ask any Kentuckian about misconceptions associated with the Bluegrass State and responses range from horrendous to hilarious: “Yes, we wear shoes,” or “No, we are not inbred,” or “Sorry, but everyone in Kentucky doesn’t get tickets to the Derby.” Most of us are content to break out the mint juleps at home and watch the race on TV. One area in which Kentucky claims an impressive and undisputed...

Constance Alexander: Christopher P. Collins – husband, father, citizen, soldier, teacher, poet, Ph.D.

His home page is a black and white shot of Arlington National Cemetery. While the sky hovers at the edge of a storm, endless rows of headstones line up with military precision beneath clusters of leave-laden trees. There is some open space in the center, perhaps awaiting the arrival of other soldiers from different wars. By contrast, the cover of Christopher P. Collins’ award-winning collection of...

Constance Alexander: Conflict and compromise come alive on Western Kentucky History Day

For the fourth year in a row, students from elementary, middle, and high schools in Western Kentucky made the past come alive on History Day. The annual event, sponsored by the Kentucky Historical Society, brought approximately seventy-five youngsters to Murray State University’s Crisp Center in Paducah last week, where they competed for opportunities to showcase their history projects at a statewide...