Who you gonna call...to get coverage in the Star?

Dateline: Fri 13 Oct 2006

This is the second time in the past 3 weeks or so a question has come my way from a reader of this blog: how do we get the Star to respond to -- fill in the blank?

Right now, let's focus on politics. Longtime neighborhood activist Pat Andrews of the Marion County Alliance of Neighborhoods of Indy has been frustrated, to say the least, by the Star's refusal to take a look at the 4th district race between incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Buyer, R, and Dem challenger David Sanders, a Purdue University associate professor.

One of the hot issues in this race is veterans affairs. Altho Buyer heads the veterans affairs committee, his voting record has been abyssmal. Many individual veterans and veteran groups do not support him -- including Max Cleland and Indiana's own Medal of Honor recipient Sammy L. Davis.

Sanders was in Indy recently at a rally. Rather than hash this over myself, here is Pat's email of her experience with efforts to get coverage from the Star:

"Hi Ruth,

For the purposes of full disclosure let me say I am trying to help get David Sanders elected to Congress.

Now my latest bewilderment about the Star --- how on earth do you get them to cover a story? I-69 only gets covered as a Bloomington issue. The Comprehensive Plan gets covered when there is a big kick-off party with free food and not when the time comes to actually implement it.

Now, two 'events' in a row that I think are newsworthy from a couple of angles, and NADA for Star coverage -- again for full disclosure, they did put in a small piece cobbled from the news release and Dan Carpenter has been just great -- but no reporter was assigned at all.

Both revolve around the fact that Veterans are mad as hell with Steve Buyer, Indiana's current 4th district Congressman, and Chairman of the House Veteran's Affairs Committee. They are mad because he has been doing a hatchet job on their representatives and on their benefits.

September 25th Max Cleland came to Indiana to speak out about the retraction of benefits and for Sanders' candidacy. I thought A) Max Cleland, B) Veteran's benefits on the chopping block because of the incumbent, C) National attention for a local Congressional race, and D) all of the above, were great topics for a real newspaper to be interested in covering. But

NOOOOOOO..

Monday there was a Veterans Convoy set up by a National Vets Group and called by them 'Leave No Vet Behind' Convoy, that passed through Indy. They have targeted a handful of Congressional races and are setting up convoys through those districts as a way to highlight the Veterans issues. ONE BLOCK AWAY FROM THE STAR BUILDING !!!!! No reporter. Then we walked to the Star building and over-filled their lobby. Dennis Ryerson sent down a fellow named McCleery who took no notes like a reporter might. How much more convenient could we possibly make it for the Star to talk with the Vets and find out why they are so angry with Buyer? Still no coverage.

When does something become news to the Star? Do you have to be a troubled sports legend? Are you barred from being a local resident? Do you have to represent a totally conservative point of view or at least not embarrass a person with that point of view who is running for reelection by telling the truth about that person's actions? Is it simply benign neglect?

And for clarity, let me say I make a distinction between the news and opinion pieces. The Star does not do news coverage well. They have some very good opinion writers.

While I am obviously venting here, I do want your views of : How does the Star decide what is news to be covered, investigated, or uncovered? And, are there really more sports reporters than state and local news reporters, or does it just seem that way? And, how does one successfully navigate the Star's system to get coverage for the issues that you think need to be

reported? I don't consider myself totally without mental faculties, but the Star leaves me totally clueless about the 4th Estate here in Indy.

Thanks,

Pat Andrews"

Here is the truth from Ruth: the Star doesn't care about its readers or local news, only insofar as it affects earnings. Gannett cares about making profits, and Gannett earnings are down. Hence publisher Barbara Henry's recent threat to employees: if you don't get this online thing going, expect layoffs.

How's this for a promise: If you don't cover the news, expect readers to forget about the Indianapoolis Star.

Ryerson's arrogance towards Pat Andrews is just unbelievable. A group of citizens shows up to talk about coverage and a candidate, and his response is that he won't meet with them.

As for the reporters who should be on this case -- Matt Tully and Mary Beth Schneider -- I don't know what to say. Why aren't you covering your beats? In my experience, the front office exerts maximum control over political coverage. If Ryerson and other top editors have to vet every idea reporters have, initiative quickly dries up. Enter the bloggers, who opearate in a spirit of freedom and true democracy.

And by the bye, out in my end of the state, I've discovered how to get the poor ole paper for free -- just trot over to DePauw University, where stacks of the daily Star are piled up -- and ignored -- in the student union center. No doubt the Star ships them to the students to pad its circulation figures.

But who wants to read what is no longer relevant?

comments: ruth@ruthholladay.com

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