Longtime Hopkinsville journalist Jennifer Brown says since she left the Kentucky New Era in 2016 she had been looking for “the next thing” while doing some freelancing and teaching at conferences. She noticed activity and renewed interest in the city’s downtown area. “And I thought that having a news project that had a very hyper local focus on downtown Hopkinsville would be manageable for one person to start.”
Around a dozen buildings downtown were auctioned last fall and Brown said she wrote a story about this, which began a project on Facebook. This developed into a website and Brown said she felt a nonprofit model inspired by public radio was the best route to go. And thus, Hoptown Chronicle was born.
Brown said she plans on writing about downtown restoration efforts, business development, local government and city council meetings - all with that downtown area as a primary focus. Hoptown Chronicle will also host community events, such as a workshop this fall about how people can apply for historical markers.
Brown co-founded the Kentucky Open Government Coalition and said the Chronicle would, from time to time, include stories about open meeting laws. Efforts in the last legislative session to curb these laws were part of the motivation to start the coalition, she said. The effort is co-founded with Frankfort attorney Amye Bensenhaver, who has worked for the Kentucky attorney general’s office, dealing with records requests. She credited Bensenhaver for helping to keep an active Facebook page for the coalition, teaching people about the laws and how to use them. “And that really is our goal,” Brown said, “To make sure that we get non-journalists involved in using and caring about the open meetings and open records laws.”
When asked about the importance of rural journalism, Brown said, “I think it’s important for people who live in small communities to have access to good, reliable information about what’s going on in their communities: what their governments are doing on their behalf, who are the influential people, events that are happening - because good rural journalism is, kind of, the glue in a town, that holds things together.”
In a time where people talk about what information can be trusted and good information can be found, Brown said, there’s a need for local journalists in small towns who have institutional knowledge of what’s going on in the community and how the government works.
Brown said there seems to be a revival taking place in Hopkinsville thanks to small business entrepreneurs and because local government is investing money into some of the city’s institutions, such as the Alhambra Theatre and local museum. “I think that there are a mix of newcomers and people who have lived here for a long time who are seeing what’s possible in downtown Hopkinsville.”
When asked about any particular story that she’s been excited or interested about, that she didn’t know previously and learned from, Brown pointed to her story last about the building auction. She said two relatively young brothers in law purchased most of those properties. She said, “One thing that is surprising to me and really interesting is that young people are very much involved in what’s happening in downtown Hopkinsville.”
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