'Save the Star' billboard

Dateline: Fri 23 Sep 2011

Here's what the gutty Indianapolis Newspaper Guild is saying about its Save the Star campaign:

INDIANAPOLIS -- Journalists and building service workers from The Indianapolis Star are calling attention to cuts in The Star’s news coverage with a new billboard above Downtown that proclaims “Save Local News. Save the Star.”

The billboard, at 16th and Delaware, is just part of a new campaign that includes the SaveTheStar.com website, radio ads, leafletting efforts and social media that’s intended to pressure The Star into reinvesting profits into local news.

The campaign is being sponsored by The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild, Local 34070, which represents 122 newsroom workers and custodial staff at The Star. It is the Guild’s response to four rounds of layoffs in the last three years, wage cuts, pay freezes and now a plan to outsource some local news jobs to a remote site in Kentucky.

Over the past three years, Gannett’s cuts have reduced the size of The Star’s news staff by 36 percent.

Despite working harder to produce the same newspaper, employees were forced to accept unpaid furloughs, a 10 percent pay cut and a pay freeze. Now Gannett wants to send jobs for some page designers to a regional hub in Louisville. Designers are a crucial part of the local news operation, especially when late-breaking news, such as the State Fair stage collapse, requires news pages to be ripped up and remade.

The wide array of cuts to The Star have been mandated by Gannett, the Star’s Virginia-based parent company, even though The Star is very profitable, with profit margins estimated at more than 15 percent. Last year, Gannett made $588 million and awarded multi-million dollar bonuses to its top executives.

This week, Guild workers asked that the pay cuts be restored and cost-of-living increases be re-instituted. But they were told such requests were a joke. This, despite the fact Gannett CEO Craig Dubow received a 107 percent pay increase in April.

“We care about the community and want to continue to bring people the local news they can’t get anywhere else. We’d also like to be treated fairly,” said Guild president Bobby King. “Yet Gannett is making it harder for us to do our jobs, and even seems to prefer that talented employees move on so it can add a few more bucks to the executive bonus pool.”


magbread [Member] said:

Save The Star for what?
Is this an appeal to buy more ad space so as to increase revenue for Gannett so they will hire more staff?

Is it an appeal to citizens to donate to a fund that would buy The Star?

Does this appeal somhow suppose that Gannett's "better nature" can be influenced by public opinion and the newspaper will set out regain its former importance to the community?

What the hell does "Save The Star" mean?

2011-09-25 20:01:05

Len Puddock [unverified] said:

"Save the Star" means restore the Star to what it was, although not perfect, under the Pulliam regime. Reporter, editors, stereotypers, printers, janitors, ad salespersons and other employes were loyal and the top echelons were loyal to the scribes. There were bonuses, no cuts in pay; there was tthe Fourth Estate for the Star-News family and much more.Sponsored for employes were softball leagues, bowling leagues, golf tourneys. In return the Star was trhe state's No. 1 news outlet. That's what "Save" means.

2011-09-25 21:18:06

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Oh God please DON'T restore it to what it was under the Pulliam regime. Not that.

How about this as a goal:

**Pay reporters well. Ditto photojournalists, other staff.
**Edit well.
**Dedicate 20% more space to news.
**Mandate that every reporter write at least one stoy daily. Unless on long-term invest. assignment.
Good stuff--not filler.
**Find the space for those stories. (Re-read the 20% thing)

Here's what will happen:

Wire copy will be cut.
The Sports Section will actually start looking good again.
The Biz Section will be good (I can hope, huh?)

The product I'm reading daily could be put out by staff of 6-7 reporters. Seriously. I want to support the Star, but I don't know how to do it. I strongly sense that if we demand more local copy, that might help.

2011-09-26 06:51:36

hendy [Member] said:

A waste of funds; when the Guild finally fails to get a negotiation from Gannett, they're going to need lots of money for their members.

2011-09-26 07:46:00

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

"I strongly sense that if we demand more local copy, that might help."

TTT: you've raised this issue many times and I think it is a valid point.

But no one ever answers when you ask why the Star is so sparse on locally originated copy (with the possible exception of the sports section).

If it's because there is no room to put it - due to the reduction of news hole - then that would explain it.

But no one seems to want to explain it here, so we're left wondering what we are supposed to help "save."

2011-09-26 12:38:25

VladtheImpaler [unverified] said:

Persistent, borderline-violent demonstrations on the sidewalks around the building are the way to unnerve the gestapo inside and maximize public attention. You'd get free coverage via Channels 6,8,13, 23 and 59.

Drove right past that billboard today and didn't event notice it. Might as well have been an ad for an exterminator.

2011-09-26 15:50:49

hendy [Member] said:

Who's going to take up a banner, when the sign isn't really clear as to its meaning and intention? What can you say to the general public? We suck? Fire our boss? Demand better-- as if they're going to pump money into it?

Windmills, my friends. Windmills. The best the Guild can hope for is a few more bones thrown their way. They already work like dogs, and get kicked around like them.

The definition of insanity is trying the same thing twice and expecting different results the second time. The guild ought to go online, and continue their mission there; find a publisher willing to rent them the space, and go back to work on a more direct revenue model. Call it a News Coop, or whatever. Gannett isn't going to budge. The low-probability outcomes are that you could mess it up enough that it makes no money, and Gannett would divest. But the new owner would be gun-shy after what might have brought about a new result. Think this through. Without a brilliant revenue stream change, there is no nice future for the Guild, only one that maintains some jobs.

2011-09-26 19:36:49

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

Whitebeard: I ask and ask the same question, because in my journalist days, at a smalltown paper, we wrote everything: weddings, funerals, school board, county council, county fair, chicken-dinner news....and our colleagues at area larger papers did likewise. We worked long horus, we loved it, and ink a week's time, most of us wrote 30-40 stories and countless paragrapg jupdates. We didn't think we were super-human for doing so.

There is substantial newshole--by regulation, all Second-Class Postage Papers must adhere to an annualized news-v-ad content average at a certain rate, to gaurantee that status.

The newshole is getting filled with wire drivel. It's just that simple. It would be just as easy to fill it with locally-written copy--hell, even at a reduced salary, the Gannett folks are paying for locally-written stuff. They ought to get more of it. If there are 100 local writers, there ought to be 1000 local stories a week. With a few exceptions, perhaps...and there's nowhere near that.

If editors are shit-cannign the local stuff, I want to know. If not, well...then the Guild members have some serious work ethic questions to answer.

And I don't know, for the life of me, how you instill a sense of righteous indignation among the populace, if you're writing two stories a week.

Someone who knows better, help me here...I'd dearly love to be wrong.

2011-09-26 20:33:14

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

***paragraph updates. Damn I need a copy editor too.

2011-09-26 20:34:46

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

"The newshole is getting filled with wire drivel."

TTT, I had several years with the same experiences you described working on small daily newspapers.

An average day would be writing at least one story on morning deadline, doing 2-3 obits, answering multiple calls from readers, jumping in at the copy desk at near-deadline time, writing a political column in the afternoon and then covering a city council or school board meeting that night. This kind of routine was six days a week.

I laugh out loud when I remember feeling really important one day when I covered a presidential appearance in Indiana (I was young). When I got back to the office and prepared to dive into the story, I had to take a phone call from a coach calling in a junior high volleyball game score. Brought me right back down to Earth.

I used to (back in the Pulliam days) be envious of the apparent low "production" expectations of many of The Star staffers. I heard a lot of stories at journalism seminars about how some of them (especially sports) filled their supposed work hours with entertainment and generally goofing off.

But then, I'd think about it and figured I'd have been bored producing as little as what appeared to be expected by many at the big-city newspaper. I honestly wondered what they did to keep from getting bored.

I know there were many people who worked very hard there (and still do), so this certainly isn't a blanket statement. But the overall feeling that The Star had a relative country club environment going for some (many?) staffers was nearly universally articulated by newsroom people I knew at smaller dailies and weeklies throughout Indiana.

Now, as a paying subscriber to The Star, I agree with TTT that I didn't/don't understand why local copy in The Star seems so sparse.

Maybe it can be explained, but, as TTT said, it hasn't been done here yet.

2011-09-27 00:15:47

PH [unverified] said:

Newspapers are a thing of history. On any given day, The Star website has one or two stories that I care about. Sometimes it has none. I could careless about reading Tully defend the status quo or Smith writing about more ideas for additional taxation/bigger government.

There's a reason why the on-line version is free. If it isn't free, people won't go, if people don't go, numbers plummet, and if numbers plummet, so does on-line ad revenue.

2011-09-27 03:34:39

Tell The Truth [Member] said:

I'd be interested in hearing from someone knowledgeable, exactly what the ad revenue expectation is, in print-vs-electronic editions. 50-50? I honestly don't know.

But this much is true: until very recently, there were only two revenue streams for newspapers: subscribers and ads.

Those days are gone. The successful papers will figure out how to stay afloat.

And smart journalists will figure out: if I produce more, they'll see I'm valuable.

Whitebeard: it's not only unexplained here, but it's unexplained anywhere that I know of....and again, I'd love to be wrong.

2011-09-27 07:08:29

howard smulevitz [unverified] said:

Had to get this on the record somewhere...In a cutline Monday in the Sports section, we learned there is a "Colts Qb Matt Painter." (Okay, to be clear, that is Purdue's basketball coach. Curtis Painter did play at Purdue).
I'll grant it is an easy mixup to make in a hurry. But for no one to catch it is another matter. And no correction yet. It's the kind of blooper knowledgeable, sharp-eyed folks such as Judy Wolf, Carolyn Doyle and Mike Davis intercepted when it was my mistake.
By the way, my high school sophomore grandson Spencer spotted Mattt-for-Curtis. Too bad there's no future in editing at you know where.

2011-09-27 22:05:35

B2 [unverified] said:

Whitebeard: Having been there done that, I take strong exception to the notion that there was goofing off and low production in the sports department, unless 50-60 hour workweeks count. Any "down" time was more than balanced by the 5-alarm fire, five edition Friday and Saturday nights. I also once worked eight weeks (during a Pacers playoff run) with two days off. Travel was a ball-buster. All of us in sports made many sacrifices -- especially the family kind -- to do what we loved.

2011-09-28 10:22:28

Whitebeard [unverified] said:


Perhaps you overlooked this statement in my post you are commenting on:

"I know there were many people who worked very hard there (and still do)...."

Also, you didn't tell me the era you worked in The Star's sports department. Back in "the day" (decades prior to the mid-1980s) there was quite a bit of goofing off that went on in the sports department. I know that for a fact.
I could tell stories, but I'll resist the urge.

2011-09-28 15:05:42

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

Above, an attack by the Killer Spammers, as usual given away by poor spelling, incomprehensible syntax and generally idiotic ideas.

2011-09-29 07:30:27

George Stuteville [unverified] said:

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2011-09-29 08:33:19

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

"groucho marx was a prophet."

George, your "Spam" was tasty, but I think you had a real Freudian moment with the Groucho reference.

After all, it was Groucho who asked; "Why do all of the guys from my neighborhood, after they get rich, become Republicans?"


2011-09-29 10:51:46

indykjsharp [unverified] said:

I love this blog because even when Ruth doesn't post something new, the community still comes here to "hang out."

2011-09-29 15:59:49

farmgirl [unverified] said:

A very wise copy editor once remarked that yes, we occasionally goof off, but when we work, we work harder than anyone ought to have to work." He meant the real paper, not the sports dept. When you consider today's paper, with its one edition, it is hard to believe that we came in to the copy desk at 5 p.m. and by 9 p.m. there was an edition on the street, pretty much from scratch. And we corrected and updated throughout the night.
Of course, obviously I go back farther than any of the rest of you.

2011-09-29 20:30:31

howard smulevitz [unverified] said:

And we corrected and updated throughout the night.
Of course, obviously I go back farther than any of the rest of you.

You corrected? You updated? All in one night's editions? Come on. That's a fairy tale!

Okay, Tinker, I believe. In fact, I know it is true. I was there, too, updating from the street rather than on the desk - maybe even further back than you...

2011-09-29 21:10:42

hendy [Member] said:

Howard, you could make a fortune on a website just by pulling some of those skeletons out of your desk's closet and giving them a good airing. You should write a book. I'd buy it.

2011-09-29 22:29:37

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