After five years in Louisville, city government reporter Dan Klepal is leaving the Courier-Journal
.Klepal has accepted a job with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
. "I'll be covering Gwinnett County government," he says. "It's a suburban county just north of Atlanta that has upwards of 800,000 residents, provides city-like services and has close to a $1 billion budget."Klepal is the paper's main city government reporter, and was most notable for his recent coverage of Metro Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin's alleged misuse of city discretionary funds. It was Klepa's work that was cited in an ethics complaint against Shanklin. The subsequent trial before the city Ethics Commission was earlier this month, and a verdict is expected in March, though Klepal will be three months into his new job at that time."I don't feel disappointed in leaving before there is resolution in the Shanklin matter," says Klepal. "I'm glad we were able to raise questions that were important enough for the Louisville Metro Ethics Commission to consider."Klepal garnered criticism from city officials and lawmakers whose cages he rattled, leading to one notable exchange in a Democratic caucus meeting at the Metro Council, documented by Phillip M. Bailey
(he was at LEO then, he's with WFPL now):
Several weeks ago, Councilman Rick Blackwell, D-12, said The Courier-Journal’s Metro government reporter Dan Klepal was biased, however, the city lawmaker has since asked for forgiveness.
At a caucus meeting last month, Blackwell called Klepal “the Republican writer” while slamming an article he wrote about Insight Communications offering several council members free tickets and access to a luxury suite during the UK vs. U of L men’s basketball game.
Blackwell did not return a request for comment.Attorney Aubrey Williams is representing Shanklin in the ethics trial. He has accused the Courier of trying to sell newspapers with its coverage of his client, but says he's "totally indifferent" about Klepal's departure.Klepal follows many of his colleagues who have left the Courier-Journal—voluntarily and involuntarily—in recent years. Aside from layoffs and buyouts, notable departures include sports columnists Eric Crawford and Rick Bozich, who joined WDRB; features reporter Thomas Nord, who left to be a spokesman for the Air Pollution Control District; and reporter Joseph Lord joined the WFPL News team last month.Insider Louisville has a longer list.
It's easy to paint this as a loss for the C-J, but it's also another departure of a journalist who covers Metro Government.
Previously, WLKY's Andy Alcock, who covered many city issues, left the station and now works in Florida. Joe Arnold with WHAS occasionally covers City Hall, as do several other TV reporters, but the number of full-time city government watchdogs is dropping.
"There's more work to do, more stories to write, and it was a difficult decision to leave because I wanted to be the person responsible for that," says Klepal. "But I don't worry for the newspaper's coverage of City Hall. It will be as aggressive and fair as ever because that is the standard here."