Imel a picture of community journalism


By Heath VirginMadison Central High School

Imagine a man running toward you with a knife. Most would reach for a weapon, but Joe Imel reaches for his camera.

Imel is the director of Media Operations at the Bowling Green Daily News who frankly loves to shoot anything that’s news among his community. 

His childhood was filled with moving all around the country, even living in Germany twice. This was the result of his father being in the Army. “I didn’t mind [moving] because I lived on military bases and so everybody there was doing the same thing I was,” Imel said. “Deep down, that probably helped me learn to adjust.”

He later found a home at Fort Knox High School in Hardin County in the eighth grade. There, he learned about his love for art. Imel later found his desire to be an artist. 

Imel majored in art at Western Kentucky University, but he said he wasn’t a good student, “I didn’t attend class,” he said. 

But, the more he went to classes, the more he fell in love with photojournalism. He then switched his major to what he was fond of. “Photojournalism taught me it’s OK to be me.” But even then he said he “was printing my assignments at the last minute.”

Then one of Imel’s fraternity brothers asked if he’d want to work for a paper in Calhoun in McLean County. After accepting the job, he worked at the McLean County News. Imel had a sports column called “Imel’s Insight,” and also had the freedom to shoot anything he wanted at the paper. “I traveled with farmers, Amish, and all sorts of people,” he said. “I had the time of my life.”

 After leaving Calhoun, he spent two years at the Hardin County Independent News in Elizabethtown. Imel then received what he wanted, a daily paper job. The Daily News in Bowling Green hired him in 1991. “They hired me because they knew I was a hard worker,” he said. “I’m not Usain Bolt, but I will go all day long.”

Even since he has been working in management at the Daily News, he still shoots pictures for the paper all around southcentral Kentucky. 

One of the many stories he told the 12 students in the workshop was a fire at the Holidome Hotel on the 31-W By-Pass. It was a cold, icy night in January of 1996. Awakened by his wife, he got a call on his police scanner and quickly headed to the scene. 

“When I got there, there were people crying, snotting, and screaming,” Imel said. He said he saw a man’s body on the ground lying in the shape of a cross. Smoke billowed from the man, while people tried to revive him. The man did not survive, Imel said. 

The police scanner he used that night is an essential tool that Imel uses to this day. The scanner is used so he can immediately hear about fires, shootings, and other incidents that police officers talk about through the scanner. “[Scanner] is my quick start to learn what was going on.”

Imel’s Twitter account with thousands of followers. His followers are updated with the latest breaking news that hasn’t hit other news outlets yet. “I tweet the news that not news but is news.”