Where's the story?

Dateline: Sun 17 Apr 2016

Tim Evans, my friend and former colleague at the Indianapolis Star, had a wonderful run with a series of human interest stories on "the Broom Guy," Jim Richter, a 78-year-old blind man who got chased away from selling his trademark brooms at post office stations on the Northside.

To paraphrase Bill Murray in the movie "Ghostbusters," ("Nobody steps on a church in my town,") -- "Nobody screws with the Broom Guy in Indy." OK, the Northside, but what the heck.

As stories go, the "Broom Guy" saga (8 articles, by my count, plus a letter to the editor), has all the elements we love: little guy vs. big, bad government, the justified outrage of readers, who supported Richter by rushing to his various street corner locations to buy his brooms, the intervention of several political power brokers on behalf of Richter, and the final triumph: the return of Richter to the post offices, after the authories backed off and acknowledged they were overzealous. 

I know I am perverse, but I personally relished the part of this news cycle when, pretty early on, Evans revealed that the postal service's action was based on alleged complaints from patrons that Richter cussed at them. Richter denied that, although he allowed that he does sometimes use "coarse language". But he's deeply spiritual, a Baptist. Welcome to Indiana, everyone. (And the cussing 'thing' was discounted ultimately, when attorney Gordon Durnil and Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma said they seriously doubted that it was true; they know the Broom Guy and he represents an excellent work ethic, salt of the earth, etc.)

Nonetheless, the cussing angle was an especially vivid touch because typically, reporters are faced with having to keep "the best part" or "the juicy part," out of print or broadcast for fear of offending someone, or worse. Evans kept it real, and that's why we all related.

On the other side of the print street, the Indianapolis Business Journal's John Russell (formerly an investigative reporter at the Star) had a great scoop with the news that a leading transplant surgeon is bagging his job at Indiana University Health and taking his skills to University of Alabama.

Dr. Joseph Tector blasted IU Health, as quoted by Russell: the IU system wants its doctors "to function as robots" and merely chase profits, putting money ahead of research and science.

Russell wrote: "Tector said he decided to leave IU Health after concluding the institution had changed its focus from one of pre-eminence to one of control and profit.'"

That's a powerful charge, and if true, it confirms anecdotal evidence, and some reporting in the past, that IU Health is in a cycle of failing in its caregiver mission. Or, at least, that something is radically wrong.

Both important stories, both delivered by top-notch reporters. Apples and organges? Sure. Or more like cherries and cheese.

As for the reporting with the potential for the most impact for our city, I'll be looking for follow-ups on the IU Health crisis. Based on what I've read and heard, "crisis" at IU Health is not too strong a word.  But maybe I'm wrong. Prove it.

Incidentally, Russell is on the medical news beat at IBJ. The stellar J.K. Wall, who had that job for several years, has moved to Eli Lilly in communcations.

Final thought: Nothing beats the newspaper model, fragile tho it may be, for solid, important, interesting information. 


Kent Ayers [unverified] said:

Glad to see you are back posting. Was afraid that you were done.

Also, Gannett recently changed the corporate name of their broadcasting stations to Tegna. They then proceeded to buy up some more stations around the country. And of course, they started buying out anyone, especially on-air talent, who had been employed for many years. You can keep track of them on a website that I read everyday, FTVLive. A former television news director/reporter/photographer, posts the blog and is great at coming up with exclusives.

2016-04-17 23:29:13

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