Ace celebrates "This Year's Models" with a special year-end Annual Edition (on stands now). All year long, the readers nominate Lexingtonians who have made a difference in making Lexington a better place to live.
This year's class includes an artist bent on revitalization, an athlete, a couple very different bloggers, hip-hop moguls, and a bike-ridin' cowboy.
JOE SONKA: Will There Be Dinosaurs?
by David Schankula
With the local media all but ignoring down-ticket local political races this year, it was Joe Sonka, author of the political blog BarefootandProgressive.com, who picked up the slack.
As the Herald-Leader's corporate mothership drowned in debt, local editors were forced to lay off good reporters and curtail their remaining staff's time and resources. The newspaper has done amazing work under these troubling circumstances – especially Beverley Fortune, Linda Blackford, John Cheves, and Tom Eblen – but where their time and energy are diverted, Joe Sonka in many cases fills the gaps.
Joe Sonka is a Lafayette General, a Transylvania University alum, a child of very proud parents and over the past few years he's been shouted down by United States Congressman Ben Chandler, the campaign staff of failed Senate Candidate Jack Conway, and “Rand Paul supporters.” It was Sonka who caught Candidate Paul on video advocating the repeal of the Americans With Disabilities Act. It was Sonka who Ed Lane tried to forcibly remove from the press corps at a routine news conference.
Barefoot and Progressive has become the “must read” outlet for anyone interested in Bluegrass politics, with monthly readers numbering in the tens of thousands.
Outside Rand Paul himself, Sonka did more to damage, humiliate, and expose the truth behind the Paul campaign than the Conway team, the Kentucky Democratic Party, and the national Democratic Congressional Committee combined.
They had tens of millions of dollars at their disposal.
Joe Sonka had a dying laptop, a battered iPhone and a scratched-up FlipCam.
His reporting on the Newberry Whistleblower/Fraud scandal was in-depth, unmatched and entertaining. He covered the everyday doings inside that beige cavern of Lexington's City Hall down to the minutia.
Sonka's coverage of the Mayoral campaign was gritty, detail-rich stuff free from the forced constraints of equal-time and the illusion of balance. Joe Sonka wasn't working as an objective journalist, he was working as an informed citizen.
Issue after issue, it was Joe Sonka out in front.
As 2010 came to a close, the cynical businessmen behind the Creation Museum returned to Kentucky, ready to fleece anew. Their second coming was ushered in by Governor Steve Beshear.
They'd told the Governor they wanted to build a theme park. They told Steve the Bible was LITERALLY true -- that Noah lived damn near a millennia, a full sixth of Earth's entire existence. And Governor Beshear said, "What the Hell!” – he called a press conference to announce Kentucky taxpayers would underwrite this abomination to the tune of $37 million.
A roomful of professional journalists dutifully and dolefully asked questions: "What are the dimensions of the Ark you plan to build?"
Joe Sonka had a question, too.
"Will there," he stood and asked the Governor, "be dinosaurs?"
Steve Beshear gave Joe an icy glare and the governor's creationist allies were forced to take the microphone: "Yes. There were dinosaurs on Noah's ark."
While the reporters ignored the fact that even mainstream Christianity rejects these extreme views of the Governor's allies, Joe Sonka asked the million year old question.
It went viral. Across the nation and around the world, Kentucky is now known as home to the Flintstone's Reality Theme Park.
Over the past year, Joe Sonka has enraged, entertained and enlightened the good people of the Bluegrass state.
He has had opportunities to leave, to parlay his increasing national prominence (Barefoot was just named the top liberal blog in the US, he routinely gets shout outs from the likes of Rachel Maddow, Think Progress, Gawker) into more lucrative outlets.
But so far, he hasn't. He might soon and Kentucky and Lexington will be the lesser for it, but for now he is ours and, love him or hate him, you can't help but be impressed by his pure, unbridled dedication.
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Model Athlete: UK's Randall Cobb
New Media Model: KSR's Matt Jones
Model Music: Hop Hop Records, Matt Duncan, Idiot Glee
Artist John Lackey: Model Renaissance Guy
Shane Tedder: Bike Ridin' Cowboy