Biddle crisis accelerates; Ryerson weeps

Dateline: Thu 01 Nov 2007

OK, Dennis Ryerson did not actually weep with remorse at the "news" conference held by Democrats today and attended by a lot of state and city pols, but you could tell he really wanted to. He's such a woosie.

I do not get it. Ryerson already fired RiShawn Biddle for using the words "zip coon" in an on-line posting, referring to City-County prez Monroe Gray; Ryerson already apologized, in print, in Wednesday's paper.

So why did the editor attend the rally? I know he was summoned by the organizers, but cynics are suggesting that the event was little more than a desperate PR get-out-the-vote stunt by Mayor Peterson and Co.; the fact that it was held in a black neighborhood in an effort to rally the troops may bear that out. Is Ryerson a pawn?

It looks to me like he was pandering. And when I watched the video on Channel 8's website, Ryerson said, "This is not our standard, and I can't talk about what happened in great detail because it is a personnel matter and I'm sure you can appreciate that. I can tell you this, our standards were communicated and the person is no longer with the newspaper." This was greeted with applause, which also sounded inappropriate. We clap when someone is fired?

I also find it odd that Ryerson's standards were not communicated before yesterday. Biddle, after all, held one of the cushiest jobs at the paper as an editorial writer and opinion maker. He was not a fresh hire. He was brash, to be sure, but, once again, where were the supervisors when he spun off his tirade and sent it to the web?

At any rate, I think Ryerson's appearance at the rally was overkill and showed poor judgment. Printing an apology on the front page would have done the trick.

In handling a crisis in therapy, there is an old rule of thumb. You ask two questions to get a sense of proportion: Was anybody hurt? Was anybody killed?

In truth, while this is a sad little mess, nobody was fundamentally wounded in any real sense by what RiShawn wrote; he did not set back race relations in Indy 1,000 years. Sad commentary, but we are an uncivil society, and slurs of all kinds are all too common. Nor was anybody killed.

Life will go on. But I continue to wonder about the leadership at the much longer can that continue?


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