Tom Spalding clears the air

Dateline: Fri 30 May 2008

Tom broke the story on the John Irish Co. troubles. He's a ferocious reporter, now attached to the biz desk, and a tenacious defender of his colleagues. He is also an officer of the newspaper Guild.

He sent me this email, and asked that it be posted a comment, but (for technical reasons) I am going to go ahead and run it as a post.

"Ruth I hate to dent the enthusiasm of the Star-bashers and their laughable guesses at what the work ethic is of John Ketzenberger or Matt Tully, who by the way is Indiana's journalist of the year for 2008 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the AP Kent Cooper award winner for his series of stories on the Meadows crime problem. (Does Tell to Truth or his/her ilk actually follow him around or just make absurd assumptions?)

And to FishersMom, IBJ and the Star both broke the story online about the Irish Co. at the same time May 19 within 1 minute of each other (strange but true). IBJ's timestamp was 1 minute sooner than my story, but our Star story had more details. It was our mid-day business newsletter May 19 and in the print edition May 20. By the way, Ketz' column runs Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Just some facts to give your readers - hope they don't get in the way. - Tom Spalding."

Tom has a history of being gutty and competitive when it comes to his trade. He has never shied away from telling me when he thought I was wrong about something, and his loyalty to journalism is unquestioned. But I also know that people who comment on this blog were not born yesterday, and many of them speak with the voice of experience. They also have the luxury of being candid. I welcome their contributions here. The fact that they may have different opinions from mine or Tom's only makes life more interesting.

As for how hard Star columnists work, I do believe that Gannett's emphasis on sound-bite reporting tends to (sometimes) dumb down the work of good people. (The most grievous example is the features department...in case you have not noticed, the Saturday garden column by Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp has been whittled down considerably). Other people have left features simply because it was no longer a place for story-telling. That went out when Gannett came in, with its formulaic approach to the craft.

My experience with Dennis Ryerson is that he is chicken about controversy; he wants to keep community critics at bay. That's no way to run a newspaper.

The real issue here, however, remains: that is how Ryerson chose to "fix" Ketzenberger's column, in print, and in public, carrying the water of Nat City rather than a hard-working, talented journalist. I can't imagine that any Guild people are in favor of that.

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