Michael Whitley on bourbon, Kentucky and SND LOU

Michael Whitley is assistant managing editor of the Los Angeles Times.
Michael Whitley is assistant managing editor of the Los Angeles Times.

Nestled along the Ohio River, Louisville, Kentucky is home to the 2013 Society For News Design annual workshop. The city — a foodie’s dream, and a bourbon lover’s paradise — recently topped Lonely Planet’s list of top U.S. travel destinations. SND LOU promises a heavyweight fight card with hard-hitting sessions on design, development, technique, illustration and inspiration, across platforms. Here, Michael Whitley, assistant managing editor of the Los Angeles Times, opines on his home state and what makes Louisville a great destination for our workshop.


It starts with bourbon.

“Have you ever tried bourbon? What kind do you like?”

Bourbon helps me connect the people I meet to a place I no longer live, but will always call home: Kentucky.

And I want to share it with you — the state and the bourbon.

My family helped found the state of Kentucky. My ancestor, William Whitley, built the first brick home in Kentucky at Sportsman’s Hill in 1794, and, more importantly, the state’s first horse racing track. That turned out to be a significant development. Over two hundred years later, horse racing is one of our great loves. The Derby champion is our champion and we honor the winners forever. Now, if William Whitley had only hung a peach basket in his barn….

Which reminds me: We do love college basketball. And yes, more than pretty much everyone else. With apologies to the states of Kansas and North Carolina, you will never find a place where basketball matters more or is talked about more often. A state where you either bleed red or you bleed blue, that just happens to be home to the last two national champions.

But Kentucky is so much more than our three pillars of bourbon, basketball and horse racing.

We have Southern hospitality mixed with Midwestern sensibility. We have traditional comfort food fused with modern fine dining (a great restaurant — Harvest — is just down the street from our hotel). And we have a world-class city with an at home feel.

Louisville is a jewel on the Ohio River. It is home of Muhammad Ali, Louisville Slugger, Churchill Downs, The University of Louisville and so many good restaurants I don’t even know where to start. Our bars stay open until 4 a.m., because in Kentucky we drink slow and talk a lot. It is also the host city for SND Louisville this fall (November 7-9). I am so proud visual journalists from around the world will gather in the Bluegrass State. We will share ideas and share the beauty that one of the best travel destinations in the U.S. has to offer.

So if you are thinking about coming but still are not sure, let me make one thing clear: you are invited. You will be welcome. You will have a great time with visual journalists I know and love in a city I know and love.

I’ll bring some extra Bourbon in case I see you there.

(Michael Whitley is assistant managing editor at The Los Angeles Times. This story was first published at sndlou.com on September 23, 2013, and is republished with permission.)

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