Dateline: Mon 20 Aug 2012

The Indianapolis Star, which is raising its prices ($24.50 a month for "full access", or $23 with EZPay), is also raising its standards. The results are obvious.

For the past several weeks, maybe a month or so, there's been a lot more to read in the newspaper, more bylines, even, and more consistency in content, which is often meaty, tough and/or entertaining. The only possible explanation is that former exec editor Dennis Ryerson (a pussy), is out, and Jeff Taylor is the new guy who is energizing the staff, shaking things up, and inspiring reporters and editors.

Since I missed linking to some of these stories in the past, here are a few that come to mind from the last week or so: Shari Rudavsky's Indy Living feature on a young woman who gave birth despite having severe diabetes and a pancreatic transplant (which cured her); Barb Bergoetotz' interview with the Greenwood woman who was raped; the tag-team of Bill McCleery and Jill Disis writing about the Problem Child gang in the Fountain Square area; Sunday's investigative story on health concerns for employees of a Southwestside flavor plant by Tony Cook; and consistently, stories about education -- Robert King's Sunday writing about the once-fractured Emma Donnan Middle School and Scott Elliott's insightful reporing about the culture changes going on at Arlington High School.

I even like Robert Scheer's new Wine Dude column, just because it is so bold, like that merlot he referenced last time.  Kinda nutsy, with an oaky flavor, but always zingy an an amusing little essay.

There are bylines popping up that have not been out there for a long time -- Diana Penner comes to mind. A Star reporter I ran into confirmed my guess -- saying that the new guy is making a huge difference and is the real deal as a journalist in contrast to Ryerson.

Fr'instance, the mayor's office occasionally used to call the top editor when Ryerson was at the helm and dictate when a story was off the record. Not so with Taylor; fuhgedabout it. Now the EDITOR is telling the mayor's office what is off, or on, the record. Plus the new guy likes crime stories, about which Ryerson shuddered and buried his Norwegian ose most of the time. (But crime is part of the fabric of this city). Oh, yes, the story on the motorcycle gang getting busted -- excellent. In the past, I was told, that story would have received short shrift, but instead, under the new sheriff, the Star "rode" with it.

Ryerson was known as a cocktail circuit type of guy and too "nice" to ever accomplish much. Then when he got kicked downstairs and wanted to stay on and write his dum-dum "thanks for reading the Star" column, he'd show up in the newsroom at his "little office" in red sneakers, faded jeans, a tie-dye T-shirt and riding a motor scooter. Oh, and double earrings. He just never got it. Or maybe he had a secret yen to start his own motor scooter club. Who knows?

Anyhow, he's out. Let the new regime bring us the bread.

It's gonna be a tough sale, no matter what -- most of my friends, the 60-something set, are saying they can't or won't pay for the increased prices. Obviously, the paper needs to attract new readers.

At least, now it is working toward that goal, with a renewed sense of relevancy, showing that it can indeed deliver the news.


Elbert [unverified] said:

Sweet website , super style and design , actually clean and utilise pleasant.

2012-08-20 09:39:14

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

With all due respect, Ruth, I'm just not seeing what you're seeing with The Star.

Take for example, the piece about the middle school. That was major weak action in reporting.

The school is being run like a prison with almost half fewer students; the school year has just begun; and the reporter fails to go past superficial, lazy reporting and gives us a "hey, everything is rosy there, folks," account.
Like Hendy joked previously, is every reporter there on lithium?

That's just one example. The Star is still mostly cheerleading instead of mostly reporting, focusing on fluff (and idiocracy) instead of substance, making itself increasingly more irrelevant to anyone who has an IQ above 90.

2012-08-20 13:00:30

ruthholl [Member] said:

You are talking about Emma Donnan school, right, Whitebeard? I'm gonna re-read it. As you know, the cheerleading aspect that sometimes the Star engages in drives me nuts. I did not pick up on that theme in this story.
I will take another gander at it....

2012-08-20 13:15:38

hendy [Member] said:

Personally, I don't see it. There are a few attempts at rejuvenation. Like the obits, which are incomplete for Sat and Sun online, and didn't make it to the website today until around lunch time. Yawn.

Tully, warm and blind to Pence, admonishes us that Gregg might still have a chance if he kowtows to the advice given. Yawn.

Wine dude, whose seemingly pragmatic nose has a Hoosier palate, should go back to beer and brats. The Dude with a 'Tude plasters practical well-known advice with scruffy pith. Yes, High brow Hoosier at its finest.

A shot in the arm. Not a hormone shot, rather, antibiotic. Motivational increase to pay an online fee: none so far.

2012-08-20 16:18:31

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

I don't see it either. The only "news" I noticed in today's paper was that the IPS, which contracts out its bus service, did not receive that for which it had contracted.

Myriad stories there, from the privatization of school buses on down.

2012-08-20 17:21:35

Farm Girl [unverified] said:

And then there is the Adventuress...who might actually be good. The thought gags me so I haven't actually read any of them...

2012-08-21 07:26:02

Whitebeard [unverified] said:

Yes, Farm Girl, "The Adventuress." Multiple photos on their website of this young "journalist" doing various stunts while wearing a tiny, revealing bikini. Got several of the men who commented on the Forum drooling all over their keyboards.
Not exactly a great victory for the women's movement. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't remember seeing any photos of Ruth wearing a skimpy bikini when she was writing features at The Star.

2012-08-21 12:39:45

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

The Adventuress is a ripoff of Indianapolis Monthly's column by Ingrid Cummings, wherein the writer tries something "new" and writes about it.

Except The Star throws in cheesecake photos.

Writing personal experience is easier than doing actual reporting, of course.

2012-08-21 16:42:31

indykjsharp [unverified] said:

My favorite "I don't see it" moment was this morning's "Anderson feeling K9 loss again." Golly gee. two reporters on that.

2012-08-21 20:49:23

Gray Badger [unverified] said:

I too thought the Emma Donnan story was a notch above normal coverage. You're giving me reason for some optimism. If they'll at least cover non-partisan local stuff, that's a step up from not covering it.

With Sarah Palin emails on page one and Eric Holder's contempt of Congress on page 6? 8? (it wasn't headline), add to that sitting out the Presidential election (anybody ever see that before from a large newspaper?)- I hold no hope for balanced reporting of national events. I wish they'd just photocopy USA TODAY national coverage like they do with part of the Sports section, and put the savings into local coverage.

How about TIFs? How about the CIB? How about the IPS school board? How about the Edwardsport gasification project?

Between Matt Tully & Erika Smith do we have enough liberal "commentary" yet, or can we finally add them to the editorial page to give a fair count of of column-inches-per-ideology? The Letters to the Editor (I find) surprisingly balanced.

2012-08-22 11:37:25

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