Friday, December 16, 2011

Save The Star? What's There to Save?

Blogger and former Indianapolis Star journalist Ruth Holladay has extensively covered the Indianapolis News Guild's fight against cutbacks that have been mandated by Gannett, the Star's corporate owner. These cuts include a reduction in overall staff, pay cuts, pay freezes, and probably a whole lot of other things that makes it harder for the largest newspaper in the state to cover local and regional news.

And the guild's demands are not unreasonable. Despite it being a very tough time for the traditional print media, the Star is still overall profitable, and Gannett is taking in tons of cash. But they're largely doing it by cutting newspapers to the bone, outsourcing everything that isn't the kitchen sink, fluffing papers with wire stories and...well, that's about it.

So why am I reluctant to write about this? Why am I not out in the streets chaining myself to one of those new electronic parking meters that are on Pennsylvania right outside of the Star building?

Basically, what's the big fuss? This has been going on for years.

I'm often critical of The Indianapolis Star, what they do (and don't) report on, and what they editorialize for and their logic in their editorials. But I also know there are a lot of passionate employees who work at the Star, including their reporters and photographers. I know this because, if I make a factual mistake in critiquing the Star, I hear about it. Straight from them.

And when the Star wants to commit resources to covering a story, they can do an excellent job. They've been right up there with television media and blogs with coverage of the LiTEBOX and Duke Energy scandals.

But all too often, "coverage" of a story will be reduced to being trivialized in the Behind Closed Doors gossip column, such as was done with the coverage of Councilor Ryan Vaughn's conflict of interest in the parking meter scam sale. Or it'll be casually dismissed in a sentence within an editorial or a Tully column, as was done with criticisms of the water utility sale.

And this isn't something that developed over the last 6 months. This has been persistent over the last 2-3 years, at least.

So if I can be convinced that, if the Guild gains these concessions then the reporters will be able to pursue more stories, more aggressively, more often, rather than the sporadic appearance they are now, I'll be out there with a megaphone leading the charge. If that means whatever barriers are stopping reporters now will be lifted, then count me in as a supporter!

Until then, I'll just watch, observe, and hope for the best.

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