Alum gains fame with @joeimel Twitter account

Casey Downey

A man sits behind a glass wall in an office nestled against the corner of the newsroom. Soft chatter from police scanners fills the background as he works behind computer screens.

Joe Imel, assistant managing editor at The Bowling Green Daily News, has worked at the publication since 1992. He started off as the paper’s only photographer, which brought him recognition in the community.

“I fell in love with meeting people and telling stories and being aware of what was happening,” Imel said.

But even with the dozens of photography awards Imel received, including some from the Associated Press, he said he never knew fame before Twitter, a forum that has earned him nearly 15 thousand followers.

Imel’s exploration of digital platforms began around 2008, a time when many publishers were either shutting down or selling out. Imel saw the need for a more user-friendly news site. Without prior web experience, Imel took it upon himself to revamp the publication’s website.

“You realize it quickly: you can’t just have one good skill,” Imel said. “You have to multi-task. You have to understand things in a 3-D layer and think outside the box.”

Bowling Green senior Natasha Simmons said she’s learned a lot about multi-tasking from Imel. Simmons is an intern at the Daily News.

She said that when Imel hired for the internship, he was listening to the police scanner while he also conducted her interview.

“It’s embedded in him,” Simmons said. “He can’t just focus on one thing.”

Separate from his work at the Daily News, he started a Twitter account to show the array of incidents that cops address each day. He utilized social media to share what he heard on Bowling Green Police Department scanners.

It didn’t take long before people followed him by the hundreds.

Imel had been an avid listener of the scanners for more than 20 years and was not expecting popularity from his posts, which covered content that ranged from domestic disputes to criminals on the loose.

“The scanner is a window to our community of what’s going on,” Imel said. “It is these things that, woven together, make the community. Why wouldn’t you want to know where the sirens are going?”

Followers applaud the humorous and offbeat angle Imel gives to local happenings.

One tweet from Nov. 4 reads, “Report of a white male riding his bicycle in circles in front of CVS on Scottsville Rd.”

Despite Imel’s growing Twitter presence, he said the information found in his tweets is not editorialized. The Daily News website features his account but not as a source of verified journalism backed by the paper.

“I believe in the core mission of the newspaper, I’ve just embraced a broader sense of digital storytelling,” said Imel. “I have my detractors. Some people from inside the journalism community don’t think it’s news–but I don’t bill it as news. It’s just the little snippets that make up daily life.”

Imel first discovered an interest with community involvement 30 years ago. He found a love for photography, and left school to work at a weekly paper in Calhoun, KY to see if the career was worth pursuing.

“I fell in love with meeting people, and telling stories, and being aware of what was happening,” said Imel.

“I’m biased, but I feel like a photojournalist is the best kind of journalist, ” said Imel. “They have a minute to get the story. They’re in the trenches. I’m a photojournalist at the base level, but I guess really I’m a storyteller. Whether through visuals or 140 characters.”