Monday, July 30, 2012

The Future of The Blog

To the readers of this blog:

You might have noticed, but my posting has died down in recent weeks. To those who follow me on Twitter or Facebook, even commenting on politics or current events has been relatively rare. And while summer in an election year is usually pretty dead, that hasn't prevented me from posting before.

I'll be honest and say I'm burned out. I first thought it might be due to the intense work I put into covering several primary races, but even after that, I really couldn't get back into the groove. 

I've also never really been much of an opinion guy. While I am a "blogger" in that I do this without pay, I really don't want to be the 5th guy to opine on a story that you all have read or watched via traditional media and read four blog entries and an op-ed column on. Not only is that boring, to me, as a journalist, but it also means I'm not providing anything unique.

While I haven't been able to do it as much as I've liked, I have tried and done a handful of original news stories on this blog. Some of them have been picked up in traditional media. This is hard for a blogger to do because it often requires an intense amount of time and effort that we have to take away from our time either away from our social lives or professional lives. This type of story is rare on this blog, but it has happened. And I'm proud that I've been able to do it a few times over the years.

More often, what I try to do is analysis or connecting-the-dots. When I recently saw a news report on the rise of crime in the north side of Indianapolis, I wondered if that has anything to do with the switch from cops policing small beats to patrolling large zones, with higher concentration of cops being put into high crime areas. 

And yes, sometimes when I'm particularly passionate about an issue, I opine on it. But I really try my best not to write about the same subject all the other blogs are writing about. 

What this means is that the two types of blog posts I like writing the most are the ones that are more time intensive. And between the two hourly jobs I've worked this summer and life itself, I just haven't had the time or energy I'd normally have to sink into this blog. And I really don't want to half-ass this and turn my blog into "Indy Student: Matt Stone's Rambling Opinions".

Three years ago, I started this blog largely on the recommendation of my therapist because I had recently transferred out of the journalism school at IUPUI. He believed that I needed a creative outlet where I could do my thing outside of academics. If you had told me three years ago that this blog I started as part of my therapy would be read by thousands of people outside of my immediate family, I would've thought you were joking.

While I've always said that I write this blog for myself and I could give a damn what others think, it sure means a lot to me that you all have "tuned in" to see what I've written. I'm completely floored every time someone says they read this blog and check in daily or weekly. I'm even more floored that I'm recognized at cultural or political events. I'm incredibly grateful to everyone who has taken time to talk to me, look into issues, obtain documents, and otherwise be helpful as I try to write stories. And anyone who has ever linked to this blog on their Facebook or Twitter, that is the ultimate compliment one can give to a blogger. That's because you read something in that post so good, so informative, so unique, that you thought that it was worth sharing and getting others to read.

Is this the final curtain for the blog? Truthfully, I don't know. The school year is only 20 some days away, and academics seem to have a stabilizing affect on my life. But for the foreseeable future, posts are going to be infrequent.

Thanks for reading over the past three years. More is to come, I'm just not sure of the format yet. Or really, even the topic.

-Matthew Stone
Editor, Indy Student Blog

PS: In the mean time, I'll still be using Facebook and Twitter in more of a mini-blog sense. I'll sometimes be filling in for Abdul over at Indy Politics

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My Problem with "Freedom to Work" Proposal from the City-County Council

I'm going to make this one brief. I'm honestly pretty late to the game on this one, and the proposal has been covered extensively over at other blogs such as Indy Democrat, Ogden on Politics, and in the mainstream media via the Indy Star.

I've got a decent working relationship with the pro-union group Unite Here. And as a hospitality worker myself, I have a lot of sympathy for their concerns. The low pay, grueling hours, and the pressure to do a huge amount of work without a proper amount of time and/or supplies, is something I completely understand. People would be absolutely horrified at how some hotels in this city are run, and how corners are cut to maximize profit. Yes, there are lazy hotel workers just as there are lazy workers in any industry. But most hospitality workers want to do a good job, but are not able to because they only have so much time to deal with. Run out of a certain type of detergent? Just run the wash anyway. Spend more than 20 minutes cleaning a room for an arriving guest? Get it done in two more minutes and move onto the next and hope the guest doesn't notice anything that was missed.

That's on top of what is essentially blacklisting people from advancing in their chosen field for daring to be employed, which is what the current proposal is about. While I might not personally favor a law telling hotels what basis on they can or can't hire, I really find it confusing why employers would rule out otherwise qualified applicants because of their current employment status. Of course you can't work for two competitors in the same field, so the solution is you leave one job when you get the other. But after you've left, you shouldn't have your previous work history held against you unless you did something illegal or unethical.

So, their basis for these goals are noble. There are legitimate concerns about how these hotels operate. Especially when it comes to the downtown area hotels, which largely exist due to financial subsidies from the city and state.

So why do these ordinances, often introduced by my Democratic friends who have strong union ties, tend to only focus on problems that would benefit downtown area hotel workers? At least in one case, the proposed tax credit for hotel workers, it was written specifically to only benefit downtown hospitality workers.

One of the themes that I often heard in the 2011 municipal election, talking off the record with Democratic council candidates and Democratic volunteers, was that so much attention, time, and money has been sunk into the downtown area over the last several years. So that it is now time to turn the attention to the rest of the county and hopefully let the entire city benefit from efforts that have practically revitalized downtown.

They might be showing some resolve when it comes to expanding the downtown TIF district, something that'll only "benefit" downtown. But when it comes to hotel workers, their focus is lacking when it comes to hospitality workers outside of downtown Indianapolis.