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Loss, Labors And Landslides: Our Most Memorable Stories Of 2016

Type “2016 was” into Google, and some of the top auto-fill results are “2016 was a bad year,” “2016 was the worst year,” and “2016 was a mistake.”

Love it or hate it, a lot happened this year, one dominated by loss and a changing of the political guard — in Kentucky and the nation at large. And if it was important in Louisville or Kentucky, WFPL covered it.

Here are some of the biggest and most memorable stories we covered this year.

Muhammad Ali's Louisville Roots

One reason you’ll hear people condemning 2016 is the loss of notable people like Prince, David Bowie, Florence Henderson, Gene Wilder, Carrie Fisher, George Michael, and of course, Louisville’s own Muhammad Ali.

The Champ hadn't lived here for years, but Louisville was a prominent thread through his life, as WFPL’s Rick Howlett reported.


For Some Women Auctioneers, The Job Is A Calling

One of the newest voices on our airwaves this year belongs to our economy reporter, Roxanne Scott. She moved to Louisville from New York City, and she hit the ground running with this look at how women are figuring into a traditionally-male-dominated profession: Auctioneering.


The University of Louisville Foundation Bought An Empty Factory In Oklahoma—Because A Donor Asked

Kate Howard with our own Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting spent a large part of this year covering all manner of changes at the University of Louisville, including the U of L Foundation. It manages a $700 million endowment, and in recent years, it’s been losing money and has been under major scrutiny.

Kate found a curious investment on the foundation’s books, one with ties to a major donor. Here’s her investigation.

Kentucky Constables: Untrained And Unaccountable

In another game-changing investigation, R.G. Dunlop from KyCIR looked into the opaque world of constables in Kentucky.

You might not know what they actually do. It turns out, they do quite a bit — including, in some cases, criminal acts. Here’s R.G.’s report, produced in partnership with WAVE-3's John Boel.

Kentucky's Feuding Governors

The political landscape in Kentucky shifted drastically over the past year, with the election of Matt Bevin, only the second Republican Kentucky governor in four decades.

Now, with the GOP landslide victory in November, in which they took the state House and solidified their hold on lawmaking in Frankfort, the commonwealth is in for major changes to the status quo.

Kentucky Public Radio’s Capital Bureau Chief Ryland Barton covered the shift. Back in May, as Bevin was feuding with former Gov. Steve Beshear and his son, Attorney General Andy Beshear, Ryland reported on the dispute. Listen here:

From Coal To Code: A New Path For Laid-Off Miners In Kentucky

Kentucky’s coal industry is shrinking. More than 10,000 coal workers have been laid off since 2008 — workers other business hoped to retrain and employ. As WFPL’s environment reporter Erica Peterson reported this spring, those coal workers are learning to code.


Do Men And Women Taste Bourbon Differently?

Our arts and culture reporter Ashlie Stevens has expanded her beat this year to include food and spirits. And you can’t talk about spirits here without talking — a lot — about bourbon.

When we asked for memorable stories from 2016, Ashlie said this one was the most fun to research. Here’s her look at why men and women may taste bourbon differently.


Fighting For Breath: Black Lung’s Deadliest Form Increases

2016 saw the debut of a regional journalism collaborative called the Ohio Valley ReSource, based here at Louisville Public Media, reporting on economic and social change in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.

Earlier this month, ReSource reporter Benny Becker from WMMT teamed up with NPR’s Howard Berkes to look at the increase in cases of black lung disease among Kentucky’s coal miners. They met Mackie Branham, Jr., who was diagnosed with black lung at age 38 and has struggled to support his family since then.


Family, Friends Remember ‘Bikeman’ Darnell Wicker

Police shootings remained in the national headlines throughout 2016, and Louisville was no exception. In August, two Louisville Metro police officers shot and killed a man named Darnell Wicker outside his girlfriend’s apartment in Southwest Louisville.

WFPL's Jake Ryan talked to Wicker’s family and friends for this piece.


For Kentuckians Living With HIV/AIDS, Dental Care Is Complicated

Over the summer, WFPL Health Reporter Lisa Gillespie looked into a topic that might be more complicated than you think: dental health care for people who are HIV-positive.

Some of the most commonly prescribed antiviral drugs have side effects that worsen dental health, and going to the dentist can be expensive. Here’s Lisa’s report.


The Next Louisville: Race & Ethnicity

Over the course of 2016, WFPL partnered with the Community Foundation of Louisville to produce The Next Louisville, a year-long exploration of race and ethnicity in our city.

We produced 10 documentaries as part of the project, including this history of the Dirt Bowl, an annual basketball tournament in West Louisville.

The full series is now available here and for download in the iTunes store, Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts.


Curious Louisville

Another long-term project we launched late in 2016 is Curious Louisville. In it, listeners can submit questions they'd like us to answer and vote on which ones they like the best. Then we go and find the answers.

Here’s the first installment of Curious Louisville, produced by Jake Ryan and WFPL news producer Laura Ellis.


Superstar Pigs Sing For Their Supper At The Kentucky State Fair

Laura Ellis also spent some time at the Kentucky State Fair, where she went behind the scenes of an attraction called Pork Chop Revue.


Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects. Email Laura at lellis@lpm.org.