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.




Guild is in there battling, as always

Dateline: Thu 14 Aug 2014

Here is an update from what sounds like an extremely tough week of negotiations. The voice is that of the Indianapolis Newspaper Guild.


We essentially fought the company to a standstill.

The Guild fended off the company’s most odious contract proposals on severance pay but had to accept a new 2-year deal that brings no guarantees of wage increases. Our dues payers must vote on the ratification of the contract. Details to come.

The agreement Wednesday afternoon came just a few hours after a midday meeting of Guild members where passions were high and – with no agreement in sight – we were talking street protests.

From the sentiments shared at that meeting, the Guild’s bargaining team found a pathway to a deal – we would drop our pay raise request in order to kill the company’s proposal to do away with severance pay for workers fired after being deemed poor performers.

This was important because so many of you said that proposal could easily be used by the company to make it easier and cheaper to fire folks who have fallen out of favor. It was also increasingly clear the company would not budge on wages, raising the prospects of an ugly stalemate and potentially an impasse.

Several aspects of this deal related to making the best of a difficult situation. Some examples:
*The company will begin its job cuts by seeking people willing to accept voluntary layoffs. Those accepted will get normal severance payments but also health insurance coverage during the severance.

*Severance and health care coverage will also apply to employees not chosen for jobs in the new organizational chart.

*Downtown building service workers whose jobs will disappear because of the move to Circle Center Mall will get an additional four weeks of severance pay.

The Guild also fended off the company’s proposal to use temp workers on an unlimited basis. Previously, the contract limited temps to three months, six if the Guild agreed to an extension. As a compromise, we agreed to allow temps to be employed with the company for one year.

There were some other language revisions on advanced notification before layoffs, on pay scale minimums and on job titles that will reflect the new reorganization.

We know that the victories here were mainly the defensive kind. But in such a challenging environment for newspapers your show of support over these many months – and especially in these final days – helped us emerge in a better position than we might have. We’re also quite convinced that, compared with other Gannett papers without Guilds, the workers whose jobs are about to disappear will fare much better.

These next few weeks – as the reorganization takes hold – promise to be very difficult, even painful. But the lesson from these negotiations is that we are much stronger when we hang together.

Most striking in these final days was how selfless our members were. Those whose tenure here appears to be ending were still concerned about the need for wage increases for the workers who will remain. Those who expect to be here when the dust settles were concerned about preserving the severance for those more vulnerable. It was an uncommon level of altruism, and we were humbled by it.

Not to be overlooked are the countless hours the Guild bargaining team put into this endeavor. Jill Disis, Michael Campbell and Bob Scheer took part at different points. These past three days of marathon sessions involved Jill Phillips, Tony Cook, DuJuan Carpenter, Michael Pointer, John Russell and TNG sector representative Jay Schmitz. They represented you passionately and aggressively. They sacrificed long hours from their jobs and their families. It was a privilege to work with them.

Finally, we know some aspects of mobilizing sometimes feel silly. How many Fridays can one wear red? How many helium-filled balloons does it take to get a decent contract? But we know for a fact that, in the end, your willingness to show your colors made it clear to management that we were united, and that the Guild wasn’t to be taken lightly.

We hope that as many of you as possible will, along with your families, join us this Sunday for our outing at the Indians game at Victory Field. After such a heavy week, let’s enjoy a day of fun at the ballpark. See Vic Ryckaert for tickets.

The Guild sums it up

Dateline: Mon 11 Aug 2014

From our local Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, this statement:


"The Indianapolis Star today announced today its "newsroom of the future." It involves 15% fewer journalists than the newsroom of the present. The copy desk, those folks who make sure stories are readable, who catch a tremendous amount of mistakes and who generally make everything of higher quality, is being "dissolved." We're going to lose 5 of 11 photographers and other support staff. Some good middle managers who guide journalists young and old will be out of a job soon, too. What the paper is telling the public is that there will be 6 more reporters. And there will be. With beats like beverages, party crasher and holidays and observances. No, we are not making this up. Welcome to the future."

Good Lord.


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