The Chamber of Commerce — an imperfect group of groups — launched this magazine in March 1950. The second issue included an image of the chamber’s board of directors: 30 white men in suits and ties, sitting around a long rectangular table.
People roll their eyes and laugh and cringe when they see this picture. You don’t need us to tell you what’s wrong with the photo.
But even today, 30 years after the magazine split from the chamber and became independently owned, we still need to see more of us more often in the pages of Louisville Magazine. A magazine can’t reflect an entire city — all of its neighborhoods, all of its communities — on its own.
That’s why, in March 2020 (70 years after our founding), we started taking our first wobbly steps in a new direction, and still are.
Last spring and summer, for example, we collaborated with Louisville Public Media, examining how the city we call home has changed since March 2020.
(This issue was nominated for a National Magazine Award, for the first time in our history, in the Single-Topic Issue category, alongside Bon Appétit, Stranger’s Guide, Undark and New York, the latter of which won for “Ten Years Since Trayvon.”)
KERTIS Creative and our team have published two volumes of “Constellations” —
— a photo book series of community connections. The first, from fall 2021, included people throughout the city, each subject telling a photographer who to have a conversation with next; the second highlighted people and places in 10 different neighborhoods.
We have interviewed restaurant workers…
…and three-year-olds (what if Louisville cared about them like we do three-year-old Derby horses?)…
…and interviewed you, by turning an edition of the magazine into a workbook.
In fall 2022 and in early 2023, we teamed up with the Louisville Story Program — which for the last ten years has published voices from historically underrepresented communities — and dedicated an issue to the photo archives and history of the Louisville Defender, our city’s iconic Black weekly newspaper. We also published an adaptation of LSP’s new book about the Russell neighborhood, titled If You Write Me a Letter, Send It Here.
We need to do more of this — more collaborating, more of all of us, more often.
That’s why we’ve been reimagining our Best of Louisville Awards.
Some real quick history: Back in 1986, the magazine debuted Best of Louisville.
(The Best VHS Rental Shop in ’86, in case you were wondering, was Video Madness, R.I.P.)
We started out by doing Readers’ Choice: letting everyone vote via a ballot inserted into the magazine and, in later years, via an online ballot too. The results were too easy to manipulate and were too often predictable and not reflective of our entire city. So to supplement those picks, we went to the opposite, we’ll-just-do-it-ourselves extreme: Critic’s Choice, with writers and editors (ahem, “experts”) selecting their favorites, without acknowledging blind spots.
Time for a new approach: With a nod to the chamber that founded this magazine, we’re building the Best of Louisville Voting Academy — an imperfect group of groups, organized by neighborhoods, by professions and by interests.
Each week, we ask the academy questions about their perspective on what represents the Best of Louisville. (Sometimes we also pose less-celebratory questions about the state of our city, as in: Is this the best Louisville can do?)
Our job is to ask, listen and share what we’re learning — to get more people asking, listening, sharing and learning.
We think we will understand more about Louisville when we try to understand together.