Writer / Journalist / Teacher

What Grady Clay never forgot: It's the messy mix of people that makes cities magical

The new online journal above is a prototype and far from ready -- but an initial essay is up and, its author hopes, checking out. Stay tuned for more. Send ideas and feedback to lindenbe@stanford.edu. 

The new online journal above is a prototype and far from ready -- but an initial essay is up and, its author hopes, checking out. Stay tuned for more. Send ideas and feedback to lindenbe@stanford.edu. 

My project as a Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford has been to look at new ways revenue might support online journalism centered around the city. The prototype, still very much in the garage, is Place -- The New City decoded: Place-based journalism for our century.

Take a look at the initial essay focusing on pioneering urban affairs writer Grady Clay, who died Sunday in Louisville at age 96. I had the pleasure of meeting Grady a handful of times, and he was as courtly and sly as you'd guess from his sparkling prose. Send ideas, feedback, suggestions or complaints to lindenbe@stanford.edu.

The piece begins like this:

Journalist Grady Clay had a way with words and a fascination with places all his long life. He died Sunday at 96, and leaves a legacy as a writer, editor, author and citizen that his adopted home of Louisville, Ky., can be proud of – and the rest of the country can learn from.

By 1959, Clay had been on staff at The Courier-Journal for 20 years, minus time spent as a tank captain during the war, and his travels through a dozen U.S. cities had convinced him that something important was at work. The age of the internal combustion engine had come into its own, as another Kentuckian had put it, and in the suburbanizing rush into the future, cities as they had been understood for centuries were being subverted.

Against this tide, Clay sensed pebbles were gathering to offer resistance and maybe a new course. He called this quiet not-yet-born movement New Urbanism–and the name stuck.

“I can only say that all great movements start in murmurs. And I hear murmurs,” he wrote in the 1959 issue of Horizon, a manifesto of sorts whose language would have its echo in the charter of the Congress for New Urbanism, which paid him homage in 2009.

The murmurs came from people, mostly reporters and critics and other laypersons, who were asking a simple question that had then and still has big ramifications: What’s a city for, anyway?
— 'In a Lifetime Spent Writing About Cities, Grady Clay Put People First' http://www.kinglouey.com/?p=397