The Star and the Pacers

Dateline: Wed 22 Oct 2014

Who really cares if Gannett's Indy Star publisher Karen Ferguson and the Pacers' president Rick Fuson are an item?

Rumors began to float more than a month ago that the former Karen Crotchfelt was going through a divorce -- and (afterthought)  was romantically involved with Fuson, who was named president for the Pacers organization at the end of September. Fuson is also divorced. 

None of my business, really. 

Except in how Pacers' coverage might play out on the Star's sports pages. Or, since sports is big business, elsewhere in the newspaper.

Not being a sports fan, or a cheerleader, I'm unsure what to make of the Star's big "Save The Date" promotion, linking the newspaper and the basketball team together for a "pregame Block Party on Georgia Street" Oct. 29.

This shindig has been advertised twice now; the notice appeared most recently as a full-page color spread Tuesday on Page A9, complete with a Gary Varvel cartoon of many of the newspaper's leading lights mingling with some Pacer stars.

At some levels, the Ferguson/Fuson union makes sense. Ferguson sits on a lot of big downtown boards, as does Fuson, whose late dad was Wayne Fuson, sports editor for the News. But of course the two dynamos would know one another.

So none of us high-minded types gives a damn, but we are amused by reports, for instance, that Ms. Ferguson tweeted in the first week of October that it took her only 30 seconds to get from the Star's new HQ in the old Nordstrom building to Bankers Life Fieldhouse, where the Pacers play.

Amusement may turn more reflective if conflict of interest issues arise. Others have pointed out that, in the past, the newspaper has had problems with reporters who may be a bit too close to sources.

And I personally find it off-putting when the newspaper turns itself into a pimp for any sort of merry-making. Better to stick with the basics -- report the damn news. 

But for now, let sleeping publishers and Pacers' brass lie. 

(File the following link under the heading: It must be true -- why else would there be so damn many photos since nobody gives a shit?)


News from Butler University re: Peter Kassig

Dateline: Tue 07 Oct 2014

This from the Butler MSA-

There will be an event held in solidarity with Peter Kassig, a former Butler Student kidnapped by ISIS tomorrow. Please send this information out to your groups and whoever else. He is being held by ISIS, and was threatened to be killed. His family and the Indianapolis community are hoping he will be released in a safe and healthy condition. He was a former Butler student, who grew up in Indianapolis, and has recently been doing great humanitarian work in Syria.

On Wednesday, October 8, we will be holding an event in solidarity with Peter and his family during this difficult time. This event will take place at 6 pm on the lawn between Irwin and Atherton. There will be a number of Muslim speakers talking about Peter and his background, and how we as a Butler community can help Peter and his family in this time of crisis and tragedy. We want this event to be something that is focused on Peter and his family, not on ISIS itself and the political situation. I ask that you pass this on to any emailing list you may have access to, whether it is the emailing list for Hillel, or individual faith based organizations. I also ask that you tell friends, classmates, or whoever you can, about this event even with such short notice. This event is open to the Butler community, and the Indianapolis community as a whole. To show our solidarity, we also ask that attendees try their best to wear white.


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Another photographer gone

Dateline: Fri 05 Sep 2014

Add Brent Drinkut to the list of photographers who is leaving the Indy Star.

He posted a photo of himself along with the other dearly departed on the photo desk -- Rob Goebel, Danese Kenon, Greg Griffo and Joe Vitti.

"I leave with some photo greats," he wrote.

I always liked shooters' offbeat sense of humor. Mavericks to a one.



Hard times, come again....

Dateline: Fri 05 Sep 2014

Today is another in a long line of D-days for the Indianapolis Star --- D as in departed.

Gannett had everyone re-apply for their jobs (unless they elected to leave). Then came the blood-letting.

Among those who will no longer be working there as of today are some talented people:

Carolyn Doyle and Tom Swenson, copy editors; reporters Eric Weddle, (education reporter) Diana Penner (newsroom reporter), and Barb Berggoetz (features and healthy living).

Also gone: Kelly Graham-McDonald, who is a clerk doing "faith round-up," according to the online "Follow Our Staff" link.

Many staffers elected to take buyouts: Greg Griffo, Rob Goebel and Joe Vitti (all from photo), Carl Sygiel and Steve Bacon (copy editors) and Russ Leonard (paraprofessional). 

T.J. Banes, a features writer, resigned a couple weeks ago.

Photographer Danese Kenon landed on her feet a couple weeks ago with a job in Pittsburgh at the Post-Gazette as multi-media director. She is popular with staff and respected. As one person explained, she taught every reporter how to take movies with IPhones. The paper is family owned, so she may retire from there. Who knows?

The "Follow Our Staff" link is helpful for tracking. If someone's name disappears in the next few days, you know that person also was axed or took off.


If there are any mistakes in this post, correct away.

Good luck to all. 



'We're calling the new beats the Onion beats...'

Dateline: Tue 19 Aug 2014

'because they sound like something The Onion newspaper would post. It's that unreal."

Overheard at the Rathskeller, where former employees and others gathered Thursday Aug. 14 after the Final Edition tour of the Indianapolis Star and News, 307 N. Pennsylvania.

Although the patched-together building(s) have been sold for condo/retail development, and the Star will move to the former Nordstrom store at Circle Centre Mall, there's plenty of sentiment for the old joint. Projections were that 400 people were to attend the "Remember the Past/Celebrate the Future" shindig. Let's just agree it was quite a crowd -- not only former newsrooom employees, but retired printers, pressmen, advertising personnel, IT staff, often with spouses or a friend, etc etc etc.

The reception was OK, with sister and brother act Myrta and Russ Pulliam recalling their childhood memories of the building, and publisher Karen Crotchfelt speaking of the future. My take is that I appreciated the chance to visit and to see friends and former employees, as well as check out the space where I worked....

But the real action was at the Rathskeller afterwards, where a crowd of ex-newsroom people gathered for drinks.

The buzz was the new "beats" that Gannett is creating -- along with doing away with 18 or more jobs. 

There will be beats for "beverages" and "anniversaries."

To paraphrase a buddy, "Anniversaries??? That's every reporter's nightmare. You gotta come up with stories for Christmas....and Easter...." If I was there, I'd want Yom Kippur: in mourning.

Many editors will apparently lose their jobs, or be asked to take new "beats," but the few left will no longer be editors -- they will be coaches. As in, "C'mon team....let's get St. Patrick's Day nailed down!!!"

Copy editors will cease to exist, photo staff wil be cut in half --- the usual Gannett drill. Cut cut cut to the bone, then eke out the marrow.

Highlight of the Rath for me was meeting the editor of Indiana, Scott Elliott, an award-winning education reporter (Dayton, blogs) who left the Indy Star a year or so ago to become the founding bureau chief in Indiana of Chalkbeat.

Chalkbeat, he explained, is a national project; the goal is for him and his staff to cover (like a blanket) educational change in Indiana schools. Funny, because I'd been researching something a teacher friend said a week or so before, and found detailed, well-researched reporting on the subject on Chalkbeat.

So there is life with pay and a chance to do good journalism after newspapers.

Back to the original gathering. The weirdest part of the "Final Edition" shindig was a Page 1 spoof produced by people at the Star that showed where the thinking is these days....with "entry points" such as "Sound Like A Journalist With These Terms" and "Top Ten Reasons for Moving."

Alas, it was riddled with insults for the craft.

Example, in "reasons for moving": "We're keeping our options open. In case this journalism thing doesn't work out, The Star can always open a very large dollar store at the Mall."

And this, under definition of terms:

"Byline-- Readers don't care

"Beat -- A place beyond the newsroom where reporters once gossiped."

"Website -- Where cat videos and listicles bury year-long projects."

In humor, great truth.

Journalists should always be skeptical, but the mood inside the "information center" is not skeptical -- it is cynical.

And to quote a line from the memoir/novel "A River Runs Through It," said with bite, "Norman thinks he's funny."

The implication is that Norman is not funny.

And neither is anything that is happening at the Star these days.




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