'Spread eagle over Indiana'

Dateline: Tue 22 Dec 2009

The passing of John Starkey, who enriched many lives during his years as a Star photographer, brought to mind a Robert Kennedy anecdote. As most know, John was the photographer who covered Bobby Kennedy's presidential campaign stop here.

At the time, the Indianapolis Star was such a powerhouse, and "old man" Gene Pulliam wielded his velvet fist so enormously, that Kennedy's campaign manager was said to note, "The Star is spread eagle over central Indiana."

True, and even though the stories in the Star were scarce re: Kennedy's historic Indiana run, Starkey's photos were eloquent.

May they both rest in peace.

Comments

Star Geezer [unverified] said:

I remember ESP saying that The Star didn't cover the Indy race riots because "that would only encourage them".

Indiana Avenue burned, and nobody was to know.

2009-12-22 10:39:06

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I'm continually amazed that otherwise-respected STAR-NEWS reporters go all ashen-face when someone questions the Pulliam distribes.

They were real, they affected news and they affected our lives. For decades.

That said, there were many great reporters and photojournalists who laboured at TSN. Starkey was among them. You too, Ruthie...

Just curious--how did you work under the Pulliams, knowing that their bias was so stark? Did you know they pushed their nitmit nephew on us? That they despised Birch Bayh? That they were lock-step with the wealthy families who raped the Water Co. and insisted on building Geist-Morse with ratepatyer, not stockholder funds? Hell, they pushed the resevoirs, knowing full-well that the Moseses and a few other families would become multi-millionaires, with zero risk and nothing but upside. And that's just one example of their head-turning when their friends were raping treasuries; and of their ire being dispensed on political enemies.

However great they were, the Pulliams were selective in their indignation. Far-right selective, at that.

It just seems odd for a statewide newspaper to get away with that for so long.

2009-12-22 11:04:04

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

**DIAtribes
unless I can figure out what distribes means.

2009-12-22 11:04:52

hendy [Member] said:

TTT-

Not enough people remember about the IWC's plunder. Pulliam was complicit in many things, and yeah, he shaped Indianapolis. Warren Atkinson, Moses, and a handful of others raped the NE side of Indy.

But then there were other rapists, like the board of IPALCO that send the IPALCO stock into the ditch, along with lots of pensions. A certain Mitch Daniels was on that board.

And Ruth wonders why I dislike Mitch, his Bush OMB gig, and other slaughters in Indiana. I wish sometimes that the statute of limitations didn't apply when the crime is raping the state.

2009-12-22 15:57:27

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

"Just curious--how did you work under the Pulliams, knowing that their bias was so stark?"

That's complicated. In the 1960s, being part of Important Media was...important. We knew ECP had drawbacks, but we also were engaged in the development of Indianapolis.

Another Moses- not Tom, but New York City's-- has been critically viewed by history because of the changes he wrought in NY, especially Manhattan. (I enjoyed working there, BTW, not a little because of the improvements that Moses ramrodded through.)

Indianapolis was languishing in the early 1960s. But big things were approaching. We could feel it. It was a time of optimism and change. Pulliam and the Star were instruments of that change. Frank McKinney and Pulliam were mortal political enemies (I recall they colluded on remaking the INB Tower and appropriating the property along what was Mass Ave and Penn, an area populated by a couple of journo saloons in the 1960s), but made common cause in the development of Downtown Indpls. It was an energized time. And so, we joked about and overlooked the Old Man's foibles and the Star's missteps, because in the end, we- the media community-- were doing more good than harm.

2009-12-22 18:56:15

Star Geezer [unverified] said:

Yeah, well, you don't argue with guys who buy their ink by the barrel.

And, yes, those were heady times. We went from a downtown that was so deserted on weekends that the Jaycees could shoot pigeons on Monument Circle to a vibrant hub filled with activity days, evenings and weekends.

Now, under Ballard's mis-direction and the Star's willful neglect of its watchdog purpose, we'll end up thinking nostalgically of the '70s and '80s as the glory days in Indy.

2009-12-22 19:54:29

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Yeah, geezer, it's pathetic, isn't it?
Whe I worked at the Star, at 6 PM there were a couple places and a couple only on Penn that you could feed at. The St Moritz was where we went...or the Press Club, later in the eve, where many media drunks wrapped up. The Essex House was good for lunch, with Willburgers (I still eatim, a hamburger with creamed cheese and ruffled chips).

But it was both a matter of being young and still optimistic and feeling that Indianapolis was likewise young-ish and iptimistic and and on the cusp that encouraged overlooking of municipal shortcomings.

2009-12-22 20:44:33

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I find this discussion fascinating. Seriously.

More, please.

2009-12-23 05:28:11

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

I think there is a natural human tendancy to overlook misdeeds committed in whole or part for the common good. That attitude was, I think, prevalent in Indy in the 1960s and 1970s. You could overlook Geist being created to enormously benefit a few, because it also would benefit many.

I think today's spirit of corruption and malfeasance and blatant misbehavior may be less acceptable to the public spirit because it so clearly has no common good to it. (And conversely, because bad civic behavior has become so frequent, it has become commonplace.)

Hubris has prevailed because the greedsters don't fear public censure. Tim Dunham doesn't care what his neighbors or fellow citizens think; he barely seems to care what the law thinks. Fear of public approbation has disappeared.

I think there was less polarization in the 1960s and 1970s, Pulliam's loathing of Dems (Andy Jacobs Sr and Jr, and Birch Bayh and the Kennedys in particular) notwithstanding. Whether to do something good for the city or make some money or both, the different points of view could find common ground.

2009-12-23 09:16:31

Star Geezer [unverified] said:

When I moved to town, the only "upscale" places to eat were Stouffer's and King Cole. No wonder the country clubs were so popular! Insular, stuffy, stuck in the past....

Lugar & Hudnut lit fires under the "city fathers" and got Indy going. (Yeah, the alliance of "good for the city" AND "make some good money".)

Goldsmith and Peterson kept it rolling, with the help of the Simons et al.

Yet, we're stuck now with a dysfunctional city government led by Ballard, who is politically tone-deaf and clueless about restarting the momentum, despite prodding by such forward-thinkers as Brian Payne and Maxwell Anderson (both of whom are, significantly, from out of town).

Tim Durham is just the tip of the iceberg: the Simons "gave back" to Indy. What has Durham done for us lately...or ever, for that matter?

We're headed back to Naptown.

Don't think it's an age thing. But a lack of vision (not to mention guts).

2009-12-23 11:43:58

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Every generation needs to provide its hallmark leadership for our city, so progress can continue, not stop. I foten wonder who's trying to do that now. It certainly isn't our locla elected officials. Ever watched a City-County Council meeting on Ch. 16? Horrific behavior. Worse grammar. Everyone eneds to be heard at the council, but Hayseeds have too many voices there.

The 60s-70s saw amazing progress, with some strange bedfellows.

My reason for asking about the Pulliams was the dazzling inconsistency. Let me explain:

Reporters are generally suspicious. Good reporters ask a lot of questions.
Some of the crap ESP and his clan pulled in that timeframe, was ridiculous. And yet, investigative reporters were right underneath them at all times.

I find that kind of co-existence fascinating.

I'm puzzled why good reporters put up with their paycheck signers' rampant misdeeds. And I'm equally puzzled that the Pulliams paid a lot of good journalists to hang around.

I suspect each party was trying to rewrite history a little, and mold their environment to their liking.

I'm not criticizing, just completely fascinated with the suspension of consistent philosophical thought.

Good reporters should've narked out ESP. ESP should've fired the good reporters for asking too many questions too close to home.

My guess is--the pendulum hit in the middle, and the two camps peacefully co-existed.

In any other institution, it'd be less obvious. In the media, I think it's nothing short of miraculous.



2009-12-23 12:24:58

hendy [Member] said:

Pendulum? No.

First there was the Indpls Times, subsumed somewhat by Pulliam. From there, it was a monopoly. News organizations slowly faded. The TV stations and the radio stations reduced their news services until they didn't really exist, and few exist today in a meaningful way.

The common causes were those of Pulliam and his editors. Civic progress occurred despite them. Guys like McKinney, Bob Welch, and others really tried to make a go of it.

First Lugar made an artificial advance with Unigov, and drove people out to the suburbs-- white flight on a grand scale that killed the viability of many neighborhoods. Overnight, they changed.

Goldsmith, when he wasn't outsourcing something, tried to take Hudnut's ball and run with it. Note Hudnut Way is the street that leads to Covanta, the horrible polluter and steam generator on the S side on Harding. What a legacy.

The tax revenues went south. We added taxes to cover Irsay's Follies, then sold the Hoosier name to RCA for its dome. We raised MSA and bought Conseco a Fieldhouse for the Simon's team, then gave the Simons the most prime real estate in Indiana-- across from the Statehouse.

Opportunities for minorities grew slowly, after desegregation. By then, IPS's tax revenue was gone.

Did Pulliam fight on the right side of any of the aforementioned battles? No. Lacking any good words, I'll say no more.

2009-12-23 14:30:28

Star Geezer [unverified] said:

Why did we put up with it? We liked the perks and the pay.

At The Star, Bob Early was seen as a fighter for "the good", and much of what was written was in the cause of community betterment.

Except where blacks, immigrants and Jews were concerned.

White Christians -- both Catholic and Protestant -- were the "norm" (and the only ones written about). Everybody else was aberrant (can you think of any stories about the generations of Chinese-American contributions to Indy during the Pulliam era?).

I agree about Lugar's gutting the city.

We're left with an ill-educated minority-dominated constituency that thinks Julia Carson was actually functional and Eugene Smith knows what he's doing.

And, since the death of Harrison Ullman, there's no one to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

The scary part is: who the heck is gonna succeed Ballard? He's a doufus, to be sure, but...neither the Republicans nor the Democrats have anyone better in line to succeed him.

2009-12-23 15:25:59

news junkie [Member] said:

First, Harrison names is spelled ULLMANN.

Second, There was at least one ME who expected reporters to check their brains at the door when it came to questioning policies and practices of the Star. We were expected to be curious and to ask hard questions on the street or of elected officials, but not in the building or of MEs.

Internally, there was not a lot you could do, except write the news as best you could.

During my 20-plus-year-tenure at the Star (1980s and 1990s), I was never told not to write about anything. However, the business desk was pulled off of some stores, such as the actual value of promotional jewelry at department stores and some type of shenanigans with car dealers that came out of the secretary of state's office. Reporters were upset and objected, spoke to the ME and other editors, but no one quit over it.

These were advertising driven decisions and not political or personal philosophy. In fact, most of the internal issues for reporters and editors at the paper were over advertising, which wielded a lot of power. There were holes in the firewall. It seems much worse, now. No firewall at all.

2009-12-24 05:54:10

news junkie [Member] said:

First, Harrison name is spelled ULLMANN.

Second, There was at least one ME who expected reporters to check their brains at the door when it came to questioning policies and practices of the Star. We were expected to be curious and to ask hard questions on the street or of elected officials, but not in the building or of MEs.

Internally, there was not a lot you could do, except write the news as best you could.

During my 20-plus-year-tenure at the Star (1980s and 1990s), I was never told not to write about anything. However, the business desk was pulled off of some stores, such as the actual value of promotional jewelry at department stores and some type of shenanigans with car dealers that came out of the secretary of state's office. Reporters were upset and objected, spoke to the ME and other editors, but no one quit over it.

These were advertising driven decisions and not political or personal philosophy. In fact, most of the internal issues for reporters and editors at the paper were over advertising, which wielded a lot of power. There were holes in the firewall. It seems much worse, now. No firewall at all.

2009-12-24 05:54:51

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

As the firewall between advertising and editorial/news became more porous, it was bound to change internal policies.

Was this a chicken/egg thing? Did ECP's policies contribute to the breakdown, long term. (And by the way, I wish folks would get the distinction between ECP and ESP. It was the former that was responsible for much of the reportorial bias at the Star and New...but he also was responsible for building big, strong newspapers.)

I remember that officially there was a very thick firewall between news and advertising, though I am sure it was breached on special occasions.

I also will offer that newspaper reporters were a very fraternal bunch in the 50s,60s and 70s. (My father was a 30-year journo for a daily, beginning in the 40s and retiring in the 1960s, and he and his bunch had romantic notions about the importance of their work. They also spent a lot of time bonding over booze.)

There were influential reporters working for the Times, News and Star back in the day. Their names were known in the city, they commanded respect, people wanted their attention and hopefully their good will. These were the people who covered drama, business, politics, features, sports. They were invited to everything, knew everyone, kept secrets, restrained opinions. They kept The Wishing Well and Press Club in business and hung around until the Bulldog came out. It was a sleepless and exciting business and that is because it was a sleepless and exciting time in Indianapolis, and everything was possible. Hell, we even had a new professional basketball team, though watching them play at the Fair Grounds Colliseum left something to be desired.

(As for local eateries, The Keys on Meridian was a top white tablecloth place, like the King Cole, and you could go nearby to the Embers supperclub to see top music acts like the Dukes of Dixieland. Clowes was attracting first rate shows and was an elegant venue. The Marott was still a hotel, the Indiana Theater was showing Cinemascope and there were no panhandlers downtown because there were no people...except at Christmas, when Blocks and Ayres went all out with traditional windows and floors filled with merchandise. The vast Traction Terminal housed a steady stream of busses, next to the Blue Cross building (where you could get your shoes shined and pants pressed before going to work, at a dry cleaners/tailor shop on the first floor.)

That was then....

2009-12-24 07:51:08

Just Call me Sue [unverified] said:

The wall between advertising and editorial was breached daily in the society / women's / lifestyle section of the paper.

Small example: Remember front page brides? They were the daughters and daughters-in-law of top advertisers.

2009-12-24 13:23:14

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

"Small example: Remember front page brides? They were the daughters and daughters-in-law of top advertisers."

Not necessarily. They were of course from Good Families, which were often by coincidence top advertisers. But it wasn't a straight line between advertising budget and bridal announcements. Pedigree was considered.

There was social snobbery to a high degree at the Star, which is what made the scam that Sir and Lady Ossis of Liverpool pulled so delicious.

(My wife worked in the Soc Department in the 1960s and I know these things.)

2009-12-24 20:15:16

Just Call Me Sue [unverified] said:

So did I. And I put together the Front Page brides.

The "good families" avoided the Front Page like the plague! It was the preserve of the car dealers and such.

Their daughters' announcements came straight from the advertising department with notes attached telling me to use 'em.

2009-12-27 21:29:31

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Sue,

I expect Tom Crowe flexed his influence once in awhile...but I also remember Early going red when such was done.

OK- it was, after all, a business. Now anybody can buy space for pretty much anything. Any day I expect to see the new Mr and Mrs Wanker announcing their recent nuptials, dressed in matching cowboy hats.

2009-12-28 08:47:14

Just Call Me Sue [unverified] said:

Early had different rules for the hen house, duh!

2009-12-28 09:08:50

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

When I was on the police beat in the early 1980s, I was once tipped by a detective in sex crimes of the impending arrest of a prominent Indianapolis oncologist who had been molesting a 12-year-old neighbor. I worked up the story and sent it over. I was a one proud young reporter, anticipating my front-page scoop and the beating I would inflict on The News, WIBC and the tv stations. When I got into the newsroom to check the edits, I was told the story had been killed because of flaws in my reporting. As I was sitting in the back of the newsroom, I got an ATEX message from an ACE who said he had something to tell me about the story and to meet him at The Front Page after deadline (it was called Yody's back then). When we met, I was told that the doctor had treated someone "very close" to the Pulliams and that was the reason the story was pulled. By then, I didn't care. I had already called another reporter at Channel 13. They led with the piece at 11. I thnk we followed -- finally -- on the third day with a standard cop story buried deep inside the Metro section.

2009-12-29 09:45:54

Star Geezer [unverified] said:

George: that was routine. For the Pulliams, all the content of the papers was personal.

2009-12-29 10:11:03

bd [unverified] said:

I remember Sir and Lady Ossis of Liverpool scam. I believe he was banned from appearing in the Star in any form. Not sure if it included the obit pages.

2009-12-29 12:24:32

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