Congrats to Dick Walton

Dateline: Thu 16 Aug 2007

Again, a thank you to another blogger, Jen Wagner, for breaking the story of veteran reporter Dick Walton's decision to leave the Star, effective Aug. 24.

Dick has won many awards over the years for serious investigative journalism, including the series on priests who were sexual abusers and protected by the Catholic church in Indiana. His talent as a digger and shaper of complicated stories was never valued by Gannett, of course.

Before I left the paper, Dick wrote several articles about a Marion County sheriff's deputy who was involved in a wrongful death lawsuit; the deputy, Ronald Shelnutt, had shot and killed Broad Ripple stockbroker John Leaf. The last story was never published, however. Despite Dick's meticulous research, editor Dennis Ryerson killed the piece -- after he received a call from Sheriff Frank Anderson's attorneys, or maybe the sheriff himself. Ryerson's reasoning? "Why should we pick on one cop?"

I'll never forget Walton's words at the time. "I've been at the paper 25 years. In 20, 21, of those years, this story would have run on Page 1, above the fold. I no longer understand what news here is."

No wonder Gannett has trouble making money.

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