Frontline, Tom Spalding and why I love newspapers....

Dateline: Thu 15 Mar 2007

Did you get to see the Frontline special on TV journalism and newspapers that aired recently? No surprises in it, but one bit of cold comfort: a former NYTimesman noted that it is the reporters at the nation's newspapers who are still doing the work for the ages. The blogs are not hiring journalists, for the most part. Blogs, both big and small, typically spin off the words and work done by the old msm and the horses that pull that cart.

I'll always have my beefs with Gannett, but for the record, let me say, the reporters at any paper in the nation are not the problem. Sure, there are not enough of them. Still, under considerable stress and pressure, they deliver the goods -- whether it's the New York Times breaking the DePauw sorority scandal or the Indy Star's business coverage.

Think I'm making this up? No. I owe an apology to Tom Spalding, who contacted me Jan. 31 after I bitched about the Star's merging of the biz and metro desks. Tom, a loyal Guild member and one of the true people -- he does not bullshit -- had this to say:

"As you know, the Guild has been vocal about keeping the

paper's ethical standards high in the face of all these changes. However, I wish you would provide more context. Your posts seem to be: 1) Here's some news about the Star. 2) Gosh, the Star sure sucks, doesn't it?"

In a second email, Tom amplified:

"Also ... I think your readers would be surprised how much business news the Star really offers on a daily basis despite a limited staff. This is our "fresh start" and "midday report " newsletters for today, which aggregates items generated by the Downtown staff and bureaus. Of the three major business-geared news providers in Indy, we had No. 2 and 5 and 9 thru 12 as exclusives (the same way that Ketzenberger broke the story about the 50 jobs at Chase before anyone else on Tuesday). The top story (a press conference announcing the 2011 Super Bowl bid) was actually a 'scoop' from

Gerry Dick's Inside Indiana Business on Tuesday. The other items were

generated from a combination of news releases.

"1) Irsay pledges $1M to draw Super Bowl to Indy Indianapolis Colts .

"2) Colorado company wants to hire 200 Hoosiers

"3) New mortgage lender opens in north Indy

"4) Former prosecutor candidate joins law firm -- Melina M. Kennedy

former Indianapolis deputy mayor, is joining the Baker &

Daniels law firm as a partner.

"5) Resident wants to block IPL tree-trimming

a response.

"6) Castleton restaurant changes themes

"7) All in the family --In 1957, Indiana Gov. Harold W. Handley appointed John C. Christ as aMarion Superior Court judge. On Friday, Christ's daughter, Annie Christ-Garcia, will be sworn in to the same judicial bench - exactly 50 years later. She replaces Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson, who begins her duties as a U.S. magistrate this week.

"8) Lilly profits stung by Zyprexa settlement litigation period.

"9) IMAX construction underway on Southside

"10) Wal-Mart considers new Noblesville Supercenter."

"11) Therapists seek changes in proposed Carmel law

"12) Belleville businesses steaming over sewer rates."

Tom had budget lines with each of these headings, but for space reasons, I took them out.

Tom's point is well-taken and I am glad he took me to task on behalf of the work being done by reporters. At a personal level, despite the riches of my life, I still dream about the Star every few days; the recurring theme is that I am never finished -- there are always more columns to write, more stories to tell. More words that need print.

I know that is how those in the newsroom feel, and more power to 'em.



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