Grading the Sunday Star

Dateline: Sun 08 Mar 2015

A former editor at the Evansville Press used to say, on a day when stories were reported exceptionally well,  "The paper is very readable today."

Here's what I found readable in today's Sunday Indy Star:

*Sports reporter Zak Keefer's look at the late sports editor Bob Collins' contributions to covering black basketball in the days when Crispus Attucks High School made history. The story not only outlined the racial tension in the city and state but delved into Collins' infamous alcoholism (and, the paper's enabling). Many good anecdotes and quotes from Collins, showing his deft writing style. 

Keefer did his digging, reporting former sports editor Jep Cadou's defense of the racial status quo. Cadou believed, apparently, that black players with 'jumping jack legs' and the ability to dunk the ball were not playing the sport as it was intended. Collins saw it another way, and nothing could stop his bold writing.

This is a 60-year-old story.  It was March 1955 when "Attucks players persevered over death threats, racial bigotry and partisan referees on their way to a historic state title." 

Keefer includes meaningful insight from Milan bb star Bobby Plump, who was walking around the big city before the big game. Drivers would see the Milan team, roll down their windows, and "...shout at us, 'Go beat those (expletive) n----s!" Says Plump, "I'd never heard (that language) before."

Excellent history lesson.

*'That Ayres Look' by Leslie Bentley and Will Higgins, which highlights the Indiana Historical Society's exhibit, 'You Are There: That Ayres Look.' True, the story consists of yet another list: '10 Fun Facts from L.S. Ayres & Co. History.' But the writers pack a lot of fun punch, including the info that Fort Wayne native Bill Blass had his first fashion show at Ayres in 1958; that Ayres once boasted the city's top bookstore, but only three people showed up when author Kurt Vonnegut was there to autograph 'Slaughterhouse Five' -- and all three were relatives (many of us know this story, but we still chuckle); and the quote former fashion editor Betsy Harris pulled from then-Ayres president Daniel Evans in 1992, when the store was closing: "The problem is a lot of people are nostalgic about it, but they chose not to shop down there. Nostalgia cannot be turned into sales dollars."

*Deft handling by columnist John Ketzenberger on the 'religious freedom bill,' which, Ketz notes, will simply result in 'a litigation nightmare," says Cameron Carter, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce's vice pres of economic development. "We believe Indiana doesn't need this when there is already federal protection on the books," he adds (no kidding). In case you have any doubt about the lawsuit angle, a letter to the editor from an IU law professor argues that we do need this bill because federal protection is not enough. But then, he understandably wants "valuable guidance to Indiana courts" so everyone can have their proverbial day in court.

*Gregg Doyel's Page 1 sports column on the fights that have been breaking out at Indiana school basketball games. Doyel talks about where some of these fights have occurred, the root cause (we are filled with anger) and suggests that, if we don't get our emotions and impulses under control, games may be played in empty gyms. 

I believe it was Friday that I heard a sports show on WIBC radio address the issue, but still....good reporting.

Anyone else like other stories? 



Outta there

Dateline: Thu 05 Mar 2015

The word is that photographer Frank Espich is the latest Indy Star staffer to decide to quit the newspaper.

April 1 will be his last day.

April's Fool? 

I doubt it. 


No cheers for pouring her pint of Guinness

Dateline: Thu 05 Mar 2015

The Indy Star has an article in the Living section today in which beverage reporter (still laughing) Amy Haneline tells readers how she poured a Guinness at Brockway Pub in Carmel.

Before this was published, it was a video on the Star's dreadful, horrid, boilerplate website -- you can look it up. But you won't want to.  

You know, as do I, that this whole damn thing is too silly to bother.

The "story" is little more than a big fat free ad, or filler, padded by lists. It's also another signal that at Gannett, it's all about the web, 'bout the web, 'bout the web....

Gannett does, however, love its little lists, so Haneline offers up six "Here's how it's done" instructions: how to pull the handle, how to hold the glass, how to let the beer settle, etc. My favorite is No. 6: "Present and enjoy. Don't spill." Thank you, Betty O'Crocker, 1957. 

Readers also get a list of five other Irish-style pubs where Guinness is served in the city, including two that are chains.

Faith and begorrah,  there are a number of fine Irish beer joints in this city, but the newspaper's lack of institutional memory ignores what may be the king -- Connor's Pub in Broad Ripple, tucked away on a back street (6331 Ferguson) in a former house. Connor's has been serving patrons since 1980, and no more so than on St. Patrick's Day.

The final gulp: nowhere do we read or hear the nickname for the head of foam on a Guinness -- the bishop's collar.

Research? Easier to put on some makeup and pull a lever. 





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People: Dawn and Mike

Dateline: Wed 04 Mar 2015

 Former Indy Star editor Dawn Fable Lindquist, now a language arts teacher at Avon Community High School, is out of the hospital and embracing recovery.

  Here is what she told inquiring friends about her condition on Facebook Monday, when she posted "post-surgery glamour shots":  

    "some vision issues turned out to be a benign brain tumor. Doc took it out Thursday. Now I am on the mend"

     Dawn gives plucky new punch.

     She is also a sweetheart who was a highly-focused journalist when she came to the Star in the late 1990s.

    From 1998-2004, she worked in features at the Star, repeating the job she polished at The Times of Northwest Indiana, where that features section won high awards. She was an editor, a planner, and an assigner of stories.

    Like so many other journos, she decided to make a career switch into the education profession, For 10 years now, years, since 2005, she has taught English, creative writing, speech and compositon to her students in Avon.

     I have a particular fondness for Dawn, because of her work ethic, grace, humor, her lovely name and her bursts of enthusiasm for what is to me the unknown world of fashion and beauty. It also helps that I was among the editors at the Star who vetted and hired her when she applied. 

   Journalists stick together, whether in or out of the newsroom.

   Here is her address for get-well cards, confirmed by her husband David Lindquist, who remains at the Star covering music and various other arts.

     Dawn Fable Lindquist, 3601 Periwinkle Way, Indianapolis, Ind. 46220-5499


    Newspaper photographers have a rep for being mavericks; they're the men and women who, by virtue of job design, are more removed from the newsroom drama and, sometimes, more independent and quirky by nature.

  Mike Fender fits the bill in all the good ways. Always easy-going, totally grounded and professional, he was a Newsie who gracefully absorbed the Star/News merger in 1995, rolling with the punches, doing excellent work both in the field and as a manager.

     He is the consummate newspaper shooter veteran: he started working for newspapers as a sophomore in high school, and then went "straight from high school to the Xenia Daily Gazette," and to three other newspapers before he came to the Indy Star.

    OK, so the news:  as of Feb. 20, Mike left the Star, wearing an Elvis outfit, to become director of multimedia at Angie's List. He posted some wonderful and true reflections on Facebook:

   "Newspapers have their struggles, many businesses do. But the list of great photographers, writers and editors I have shared time with at the Star will always be like a family to me. A somewhat dysfunctional one, but one I've come to love none the less.

   "They used to call newspapers the "Daily Miracle." Now in this crazy digital world that miracle happens at even a faster pace. Despite all the changes the people working at the Star today are still a relentless bunch trying to tell you something you don't know every minute of every day."

      A friend of Mike's emailed me a while back that the move to Angie's List was not only profitable but a reflection of "the photo (not the writing...) on the wall" (my expression) -- meaning there was not much future at the digitally-directed Gannett-owned Star where staff and salaries are frequently cut.

    Best to Mike, and hoping your velvet Elvis artwork from Mexico made the move to the new joint as easily as you. 





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Mass media

Dateline: Tue 03 Mar 2015

"Mass media is mass deception" is a bumper sticker which pretty much sums up where many young people are coming from -- they do not trust the old grey ladies to report the truth.

Hence our polarization; those who do not read or trust mainstream media are turning up their noses to it. 

The problem is, as one friend explained, that this has created a glut of media consumers who only read what re-enforces their particualr perspectives.

This friend, who toiled in the fields of old-school journalism until her job became intolerable, tells the story of her daughter, who gets her "news" exclusively from a conglomerate blog that tells her what she wants to read about the issues of the day.

This is an insult to what we once called the Fourth Estate -- news organizations and journalists who vowed to challenge government propaganda and the powers that be at any cost.

But we brought it on ourselves, to a large extent. When reporters stop challenging, people stop reading.

Welcome to the world of Fox and MSNBC, which is the MSM version of only hearing what you want to hear. Hence the crisis that is today's journalism. 



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