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Ryan Van Velzer is Kentucky Public Radio's new managing editor

Ryan Van Velzer in the alley beside Louisville Public Media
Justin Hicks
Ryan Van Velzer is the managing editor of Kentucky Public Radio.

Louisville Public Media’s former energy and environment reporter will lead statewide politics coverage and manage a collaboration of Kentucky public radio stations.

Each and every day elected officials make decisions that impact the future of Kentucky’s 4.5 million residents. With the stroke of a pen, a vote or a single line in a 200-page budget, politicians and state employees can add to or diminish the rights of the people of Kentucky.

It’s the job of journalists to hold these officials to account, to inform the public and share what it’s like to be on the receiving end of state policies from Pine Mountain to Paducah, from Covington to Bowling Green.

I’ve accepted a role as managing editor for Kentucky Public Radio to do just that; to inform, engage and inspire Kentuckians across the Commonwealth.

I’m excited to edit an extremely talented statewide politics team and manage a collaboration of public radio stations that reaches all 120 Kentucky counties. The KPR Network includes Louisville Public Media, WEKU-Richmond, WKYU-Bowling Green, WKMS-Murray and WVXU-Cincinnati.

I moved to Kentucky six years ago and for the last six years I’ve had the good fortune to serve as Louisville Public Media’s energy & environment reporter.

I say good fortune, and I mean it. When I applied for the job in 2018, I accidentally addressed my cover letter to the Courier Journal. They hired me anyway, and my editor didn’t tell me about that until two years later.

I’ve had the good fortune to ride in a hot air balloon, walk in a sewage tunnel underneath the Ohio River, tag Monarch butterflies and photograph the world’s tallest red hickory tree.

But there are also harsh realities to report about in Kentucky and that is a responsibility I do not take lightly.

I’ve reported on industrial pollution, forever chemicals, biodiversity loss, natural disasters, climate change, a plague and the largest protests to come to the state since the Civil Rights movement. Between 2020 and 2022, I got tear gassed, survived a mass shooting and lost my brother to suicide.

When I started this job, I was passed a torch. Well actually it was a former environment reporter for the Courier Journal passing me a small jar of fertilizer made from human waste called “Louisville Green.” But the point remains, the time has come for me to pass the jar of fertilizer. We’ll have more information to share soon on who will serve as LPM’s next energy & environment reporter.

I won’t say that journalism is more important than ever. I will tell you that it is as important as it has always been. Yes, good reporting enrages, but it can also inspire. It can amplify the voices of the unheard, and it can hold truth to power.

Truth, kindness, compassion, grace, accountability and courage in the face of adversity; These are values I admire in Kentuckians I’ve reported on.

Like the story of Gwen Christion, who started working at the IGA in Isom in 1973, bought it in 1998, lost it to the floods in 2022, and reopened it better than ever in 2023.

And Jon Cherry, who took a hobby and turned it into a calling when he began snapping photos during the Breonna Taylor protests then went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for the photos he took on January 6, 2021.

And Redemption City Church Pastor Brad Shuck who set about repairing the roof of his church to feed his congregation the morning after tornadoes ripped through Dawson Springs.

These are the values I’ll demonstrate while having the good fortune to serve as a steward of Kentucky Public Radio.

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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