A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Constance Alexander: Now more than ever, local newspapers matter in creating informed communities

When my mother was alive, her subscription to the Murray Ledger & Times provided daily reassurance that I, her youngest child, was safe and sound in faraway Kentucky. Mother, a native New Yorker, could not quite fathom how anyone would voluntarily relocate to a state a thousand miles from what had been home for a lifetime, but after a week of the ML&T, Mother was sold on Murray. “Nothing...

Constance Alexander: Studying music at a young age leads to a lifetime of skill and satisfaction

BOOM-boom-boom-boom. BOOM-boom-boom-boom. Those are the opening measures of my first recital piece, “Indian Drum,” by Katherine K. Davis. Playing it today, so many years later, I understand why my piano practice was limited to the hours when Daddy was at work. My stalwart, stay-at-home mother endured the worst of it by turning up the volume on her radio soap operas to drown out those early musical...

Constance Alexander: The wide world of sports is the most thrilling when it involves the home team

The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat are most keenly felt when it’s the hometown team we root for. Take, for instance, the time that Murray State University beat Vanderbilt in the first round game of the Western Region in the 2010 NCAA tournament. With 12.4 seconds left and a timeout with 4.2 seconds to play, Jermaine Beal’s two free throws gave Vandy the lead. According to the account...

Constance Alexander: Speaking up, speaking out, speaking the truth even when it hurts

Last week in Murray, about a hundred twenty citizens showed up for a town hall discussion about plans for expansion of the Calloway County Public Library. The same night, close to a hundred people gathered at the Market House Theatre in Paducah for “Democracy & the Informed Citizen,” a statewide project to encourage civil discourse, focused on the novel, “All the King’s Men,” by Kentucky...

Constance Alexander: Three little words from classic book spark timely discussion of timeless issues

Politics, power, and corruption. Can you think of three better words to spark a lively community discussion? On Monday, September 24, at 6:30 p.m., the Calloway County Public Library is hosting a program focused on Robert Penn Warren’s groundbreaking novel All the King’s Men. The book reflects those three little words and provides a launching pad for civil discourse on timeless issues. Readings...

Constance Alexander: The semicolon is a valuable writing tool, that could some day save a life

“The great thing about the semicolon,” I tell my students, “is that it can make your writing look more sophisticated, and forge longer sentences that are flowing, not choppy.” But what I like best about semicolons is how Amy Bleuel transformed the symbol into a badge of hope. Thanks to her, the punctuation mark is a way to honor those who struggle with depression, suicide addiction, anxiety,...

Constance Alexander: The last holiday of summer also a time to honor the legacy of our labor unions

The pressman always talked too loud; in fact, he shouted. When I asked my father why Daddy explained that the man had to make himself heard above the presses. He had gotten so used to the din, he seemed unable to turn down the volume even when things were quiet. For so many people, work does not stop when the whistle blows, or the boss goes home, or the time clock punches them out. Today, technology...

Constance Alexander: Justine Riley shares her sensory appreciation of the horse in new book

“Most people think horses are beautiful, but I think they smell good,” says Justine Riley. In fact, she is so passionate about sharing her sensory appreciation, she created a book called “I’m a Horse Smeller.” When she wears the teal t-shirt that depicts the book’s cover, equine enthusiasts approach and tell her they understand exactly what she means. Those who don’t have much experience...

Constance Alexander: Communities benefit when their workplaces are accessible and inclusive

When Carrissa Johnson sends me an email, I pay attention. As Satellite Office Manager of Murray’s Center for Accessible Living, she champions causes affecting people with disabilities and shares valuable information associated with this often overlooked and under-employed group. The other day she forwarded an announcement about a free screening and panel discussion of an important film, “Bottom...

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...