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PATRICK: Home is where the heart is

“Son, take a good look around

This is your hometown.”

– Bruce Springsteen

 

It’s good to be back home, but it isn’t what I expected.

When I returned from Bardstown to the Bluegrass at the beginning of the new year, there were many things I looked forward to doing this spring.

I wanted to see a Legends game with my niece and brother-in-law, spend a day at Keeneland with a buddy, talk politics with my cousin at Engine House, hike the Pinnacles when the redbuds were in bloom, enjoy a hot brown at JK’s and fried banana peppers at Hall’s. I wanted to be more involved in my parish church, find a comfortable apartment in a quiet old neighborhood like the one I had on South Maple, and be more socially active than when I was chained to my desk day and night as an editor.

I’ve always liked being a writer more than a manager, and I looked forward to telling people’s stories, celebrating what’s great about Clark and Jessamine counties, and shining a light on social issues in hope of making things better.

The first couple of months were great. I enjoyed Leeds Center for the Arts’ gala at the Opera House and the inauguration of Asbury University’s new president, interviewing a stonemason and a winemaker, reconnecting with acquaintances and friends.

Then came the springtime of our discontent.

Now there is only one story, the coronavirus, and most of my working hours are occupied by telling that story in a myriad of ways — how doctors prepare to save lives, how restaurant owners struggle to survive with only carryout, how pastors and parishioners find creative ways to be the church when gathering risks spreading the deadly contagion.

The stories haven’t all been grim; some have been inspiring, like those of homeschool kids who use 3D printers to make face shields for nurses and cashiers, a physician assistant who went to New York to work in a field hospital with COVID-19 patients and singers from around the Bluegrass who made a music video to give people hope in a dark time.

At present, I’m working remotely from my parents’ country home near Pine Grove, where I’m staying. It was supposed to be for only a couple of months until I could find a place of my own, but with the challenges community newspapers have encountered in the last decade — made worse by the pandemic and widespread unemployment — it seems unwise to sign a 12-month lease until I see how this is going to play out.

With most businesses shuttered for the past two months, our advertising revenue has eroded. For the first time in a century, The Winchester Sun is no longer a daily.

We have two reporters and an editor for two newspapers, which is less than a quarter of the staffing those two papers together had 15 years ago, but they were also bigger papers then.

Most community journalists I have worked with in the past 37 years have gotten out of the profession and gone into public relations or marketing, which pays more and is less stressful, but also less interesting. I keep doing this because it’s more important than ever that people have the accurate, reliable, unbiased information newspapers and legacy broadcasters offer as an alternative to “alternative facts” spread by social media.

Besides, it’s in my blood. It’s what I do and who I am. Journalism is a business, but it’s also a public trust and a community service, and I remain committed to serving the communities of Winchester, Nicholasville and Wilmore even when it’s hard. Especially when it’s hard.

The road ahead is going to be hard and the journey long, but as our governor likes to say, we will get through this. We will get through this together.

Though this wasn’t the kind of homecoming I envisioned, I can think of no other place I would rather be during this difficult time than here where my heart is, with the people I love most.

Randy Patrick is a reporter for The Winchester Sun. He can be reached at randy.patrick@winchestersun.com.