The daily newspaper; some great stories

Dateline: Wed 27 Mar 2013

A recent lunch with former employees of the Indianapolis Star was a testament to loyalty; despite our bitching about Gannett, all six of us remain determined readers of the daily newspaper, and five are subscribers.

The Star builds faithful readers who can't wait to get the morning news when it prints good stories that are solid journalism.

Here are some stories among many that made a difference in the past severals, starting with the Saturday Star:

"Crime bill hits bump," by John Russell, 3/21/13, tells about a bill "designed to stem the rapid growth in the prisoner count and overhaul the state's criminal code for the first time in more than 30 years." The money quote, from Andrew Cullen, legislative liaison with the Indiana Public Defender Council: "The average member of the public would look at our code today and say, 'I can't believe the guy with an eight ball of cocaine (one-eighth of an ounce or about 3.5 grams) in his pocket is behind bars for 30 years, and the guy who raped my grandmother got seven." Uh, yeah. Can't believe it.

Our drug laws are archaic and someday we'll look back on this era as we now do on Prohibition -- an experiment that failed. Russell, one of the paper's top investigative reporters, did a great job highlighting the concerns, which include building bigger and more prisons for these low-level druggies, (!) as well as reporting that Gov. Mike Pence is "bothered by provisions that would decrease penalties for entry-level drug offenses, such as dealing and possession."

Pence is wrong. The legislation is House Bill 1066, if you want to track it.

Sunday's A-1 story, "Behind the fun, A FAMILY FEUD," by Jeff Swiatek, was also excellent reading -- who of us knew that Indiana's Holiday World in Santa Claus was the first theme park in the nation, opening in 1946 by a benevolent family patriarch named Louis J. Koch and predating Disney World by nine years? Swiatek unravels the struggle within the Koch family to control the park after the untimely death by diabetes of Louis Koch's son Will in 2010; Will ran the show. Now Will Koch's widow Lori Koch and his brother Dan Koch, a lawyer who resided in Florida, are fighting each other for who will run the place, which, everyone says, is one of the best and cleanest parks in the nation (if not the world). Great family saga, with all the elements: Catholicism, matriarch who is a former nun, gobs of money and a contest of wills on behalf of Lori Koch's three children and Dan Koch's two kids. Real Old Testament stuff here, reminescent of the strife in the family of J. Irwin Miller, who built Cummins in Columbus. Makes us proles feel not so bad that we're not rich and in court.

"Too Bold for Cancer, Round 1 of a Tough Fight," by Star correspondent Vanessa Pippenger. I'll always be a fan of features, and Vanessa had me hooked from her first graph: "I spent my junior year of college studying English in Cork City, Ireland, and traveling Europe. My friends kept making jokes about my inability to walk a straight line -- we blamed the pints that never left my system. Near the end of my adventures abroad, I had a complete breakdown and punched a mirror, could not stop crying and even packed my bag in the middle of the night, thinking I could get to the airport in Rome. Once back in Ireland, I missed my 'Women in Literature' final because I mixed up the date."

Pippenger was diagnosed, at age 21, with a nasty brain tumor and Stage 3 brain cancer, "typically found in overweight, smoke-shrounded men in their 60s." She was given 3-5 years to live, in 2006. Fortunately she's still kicking because her writing is eloquent, witty, pithy, and hilarious. More like this. (You can read other entries from her online).

Love these stories, and many more. Always enjoy letters to editor and getting a blast from Dan Carpenter, even when we disagree.  Oh, and Will Higgins' story a couple weeks ago about training Alpha dogs in Indiana was excellent, as is all his stuff. I now watch Alpha Dogs every Friday at 9 p.m. on National Geographic. See, and you thought I was out drinking...

More's the more. Thanks for enriching us. Those of us, anyhow, who still read the dailies.


Mark Small [unverified] said:

You make some good points. I particularly liked the story about the Koch family's feud over Holiday World. (And I am a fan of Dan Carpenter.) Overall, however, there are two problems with the Indianapolis daily paper. First, it has become a force of boosterism (remember "Babbitt" by Sinclair Lewis?) instead of a journalistic check on city and county governmental policies. My second point became apparent to me when we vacationed in Florida. I could not understand why the St. Petersburg Times was a really good newspaper---extensive local coverage, stories on sports by the paper's statff, not simply wire stories---compared to our daily in a major city. Then I thought about the demographics in that area. People in their 60s and up are used to the morning paper. I read a paper here and much of it consists of stories I read the previous afternoon on-line.

2013-03-28 04:39:58

varangianguard [unverified] said:

I cannot speak for the rest, but -I- didn't think you spent your Friday evenings drinking. Playing bingo, perhaps. rofl

2013-03-28 06:28:38

hendy [Member] said:

I read the Miami Herald each Sunday, because of its coverage, and perhaps Carl Hiaasen, who has just that tincture of awe in his columns on the madness of Florida.

The dailies? Tougher to find. Yet Tully and Smith came through, although their shock and awe didn't quite have the vehemence that a Harrison Ullman might have had.

Reporting is much easier when things are so obviously bad.

2013-03-29 21:16:00

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