'We're calling the new beats the Onion beats...'

Dateline: Tue 19 Aug 2014

'because they sound like something The Onion newspaper would post. It's that unreal."

Overheard at the Rathskeller, where former employees and others gathered Thursday Aug. 14 after the Final Edition tour of the Indianapolis Star and News, 307 N. Pennsylvania.

Although the patched-together building(s) have been sold for condo/retail development, and the Star will move to the former Nordstrom store at Circle Centre Mall, there's plenty of sentiment for the old joint. Projections were that 400 people were to attend the "Remember the Past/Celebrate the Future" shindig. Let's just agree it was quite a crowd -- not only former newsrooom employees, but retired printers, pressmen, advertising personnel, IT staff, often with spouses or a friend, etc etc etc.

The reception was OK, with sister and brother act Myrta and Russ Pulliam recalling their childhood memories of the building, and publisher Karen Crotchfelt speaking of the future. My take is that I appreciated the chance to visit and to see friends and former employees, as well as check out the space where I worked....

But the real action was at the Rathskeller afterwards, where a crowd of ex-newsroom people gathered for drinks.

The buzz was the new "beats" that Gannett is creating -- along with doing away with 18 or more jobs. 

There will be beats for "beverages" and "anniversaries."

To paraphrase a buddy, "Anniversaries??? That's every reporter's nightmare. You gotta come up with stories for Christmas....and Easter...." If I was there, I'd want Yom Kippur: in mourning.

Many editors will apparently lose their jobs, or be asked to take new "beats," but the few left will no longer be editors -- they will be coaches. As in, "C'mon team....let's get St. Patrick's Day nailed down!!!"

Copy editors will cease to exist, photo staff wil be cut in half --- the usual Gannett drill. Cut cut cut to the bone, then eke out the marrow.

Highlight of the Rath for me was meeting the editor of Chalkbeat.org Indiana, Scott Elliott, an award-winning education reporter (Dayton, blogs) who left the Indy Star a year or so ago to become the founding bureau chief in Indiana of Chalkbeat.

Chalkbeat, he explained, is a national project; the goal is for him and his staff to cover (like a blanket) educational change in Indiana schools. Funny, because I'd been researching something a teacher friend said a week or so before, and found detailed, well-researched reporting on the subject on Chalkbeat.

So there is life with pay and a chance to do good journalism after newspapers.

Back to the original gathering. The weirdest part of the "Final Edition" shindig was a Page 1 spoof produced by people at the Star that showed where the thinking is these days....with "entry points" such as "Sound Like A Journalist With These Terms" and "Top Ten Reasons for Moving."

Alas, it was riddled with insults for the craft.

Example, in "reasons for moving": "We're keeping our options open. In case this journalism thing doesn't work out, The Star can always open a very large dollar store at the Mall."

And this, under definition of terms:

"Byline-- Readers don't care

"Beat -- A place beyond the newsroom where reporters once gossiped."

"Website -- Where cat videos and listicles bury year-long projects."

In humor, great truth.

Journalists should always be skeptical, but the mood inside the "information center" is not skeptical -- it is cynical.

And to quote a line from the memoir/novel "A River Runs Through It," said with bite, "Norman thinks he's funny."

The implication is that Norman is not funny.

And neither is anything that is happening at the Star these days.




George Stuteville [unverified] said:

I wish I could have been there to see so many of you. It was my privilege to have worked with such a great group for those 20 years I was with The Star. You guys made every minute of it worthwhile for me and I could never, ever thank you enough.

2014-08-19 12:40:45

Ms. Cynical [unverified] said:

My favorite part of the "farewell party" was the tour of the decimated newsroom, with signs denoting "empty desk" and placards stating that severance pay was a right, not charity.

Sad, sad times at The Star.

2014-08-20 15:25:46

howard smulevitz [unverified] said:

Just saw this stuff. You want to cover anniversaries? Got a deal for you! Jews have the Yahrzeit, the anniversary of a close relative's death, observed (on the annual Hebrew date) with a prayer and a 25-hour candle, starting at sundown, for as long as the observants live and are capable. And then their Yahrzeit is observed, year after year.
There would be Yahrzeits to choose to cover every day of every year. To be helpful, synagogues (and Jewish mortuaries) mail notices of the approaching date to families, and list the deceased and the Yahrzeit date in their bulletins. An anniversary beat person would have no problem finding daily subjects. What a concept. Oy vey iz mir!

2014-08-22 18:21:16

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