It's been about a month now since the Indianapolis Star restructured its daily newspaper, folding city/state coverage into the A section, adding a second section of national and world news from USA Today and generally attempting to expand its coverage and reach.
No fan of USA Today, I was prepared to dislike the "new" newspaper, but not the case. It's fine. It's better, in fact.
If anything, reporters -- as thin as their ranks are -- appear to be working harder to deliver a generous helping of solid local coverage. It's as if there's been a rebirth of energy and people believe in their mission again, which is no easy task considering layoffs this summer and an impending move. Still, the proof is in the daily paper.
In particular, a number of stories stand out:
The front page Sunday piece Sept. 29 on black males who were murdered over a year's time, which was detailed and a bit of a surprise given the newspaper's policy on not publishing the race of crime suspects. However, the page 1 story -- "Young Lives Cut Short" by Tim Evans -- showed in part that crime was often a factor in these deaths;
The excellent, thorough, and riveting David Bisard trial/case coverage by John Touhy, which has answered many questions and is sure to be a must-read whatever the outcome
The ongoing action and tension between State Public School chief Glenda Ritz and the board of education, most which was written by Barb Bergoettz.
The home daycare series perturbs and disturbs but needs to have light shed. Again, Tim Evans' work.
And an update on the fate of Northside neighborhoods dealing with the Corps of Engineers regarding flood control -- thanks, Jon Murray, for telling us first what we who are affected did not even know.
As to features, Will Higgins' pre-Halloween bike ride through underground Pogue's Run was sophisticated and funny, with great photos by Michelle Pemberton. If anything I wish for more stories like this -- "make me laugh, make me cry" -- because too often, the features pages are reduced to list-making. Or the boring antics of that Sunday woman Leslie who writes about herself all the time. Get over it. More Higgins, less Leslie.
With the new format, the city/state columnists Matt Tully and Erika Smith seem more subdued. Is their writing off, or is it the placement that makes them less significant? But Sports still has Bob Kravitz, and as for the rest of that section, most people I hear from say pffft to it. I have no opinion. But I do appreciate knowing that the Red Sox won the World Series, which was a USA Today save.
USA Today also has surprised me with stories on the Silk Road (drugs) and the new Google glasses, among others.
In short, I am not complaiing. For a change. The Star is well worth its price in both news and deversion.
Dave Blower, senior editor at AntiqueWeekly and Farm World, has an opening for a journalist.
Here is the information from Blower:
"We have a full-time editing position available here at AntiqueWeek and Farm World. The job would involve editing stories for all of our publications, and this position also helps manage our freelance staff.
"The job is at our facility here in Knightstown, which is about 35 miles east of Indy. Please let me know if you are interested."
Here is his email contact:
From a longtime blog reader, who never worked for the Indianapolis Star, the following translations of Gannettspeak:
The masters of spin… “giving you more.” McNews all the way.
"A new subsection in The Star’s Sports section with insight and analysis from USA Today’s sports team." –Translation: nationalizing sports coverage
"A revamped Sunday business section that will emphasize jobs, the workplace and the economy. Daily local business coverage will be integrated into the front local section." –Translation: no more business section
"The Star’s Sunday opinion and conversations page will be rebranded 'Forward Indiana' and built around two competing views on the same topic. –Translation: more Chicks on the Right
The rumors are true: The Indianapolis Star has confirmed that it will roll out a new version of the newspaper on Oct. 6, featuring USA Today content.
Here's the story that the Star publsihed today:
Publisher Karen Crotchfelt is selling it as a bigger, better version of the Indianapolis Star, with a big boost in local and national content. The story, by Tony Cook, is focused on the word "significant
"The Indianapolis Star will significantly increase its local and national content beginning Oct. 6, publisher Karen Crotchfelt announced today.
"The changes will add more than 70 pages and several new sections and features to The Star every week. Among the more significant additions will be expanded local coverage — especially news from the suburbs — as well as a new daily world and national news section. That section will be produced through a first-of-its-kind partnership with USA Today, the national newspaper published by The Star’s parent company, Virginia-based Gannett Co."
Gannett Blog's Jim Hopkins, a former USA Today editor and reporter with a background in business and investigative writing, has this to say:
"The project, if successful, would be one of the biggest new initiatives in Gannett's recent history. It's a bold and risky bet on print's future amid declining circulation and advertising, even as the century-old company battles to become a digital powerhouse."
The bottom line, says Hopkins, is that this move is really about bolstering USA Today, which is suffering in comparison to its two competitors, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. USA Today has been losing circulation while the other two national papers are picking up steam.
Hotels used to buy USA Today and offer it free to guests. That went bust when hotel guests simply ignored the paper in favor of smart phones and tablets, reports Hopkins.
Readers of this blog weighed in this morning and are predictably skeptical. One email, headlined "Laughable," contained this comment:
"Star announces partnership with USA Today. Isn’t that equivalent to going into business with your father?
"Boost local content. Local content filed out of Louisville? OK, I know the designers are in Louisville but are we really to believe that more than a skeleton staff will be working from the Nordstrom building?"
Another former employee wrote, under the heading "What a spin!":
"So, this seems to be the ultimate spin-more coverage that has nothing to do with Indiana, let alone Indy, and this makes the Star a better paper for who?
"Just "pipe" the 10pt type in from elsewhere and slap it down. The doesn't require the local expense of an actual reporter or photographer! Ugh!
"So I can by the Star and USA from the same news stand and they have the same stories. Really?"
Other comments voicing similar concerns can be found aplenty on the Star's web page.
I will believe it all when I see it -- more local content, all that. One aspect I do believe is that this will lead to a boost in cost to subscribers. As Hopkins says, "Restoring local news reduced during cost-cutting since 2008 could be used to sell readers on any subscription increases."
I will continue my subscription -- $43.07 for 3 months is the retired employee rate - but I fear, as always, that Gannett has only its own corporate financial interests at the heart of any of its strategies. If only the company would focus on news and keeping a stable staff of competent, veteran reporters and editors, maybe its success would be more assured.
Here is the link to Gannett Blog:
Former Indianapolis Star and News reporter Abe Aamidor has written a piece about race and reporting -- "When Race is Relevant: In the Quest for Ethics and Sensitivity, Are News Outlets Leaving Out Important Details Too Often?"
The piece appears in the July/August 2013 issue of Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Jounralists.
The article is actually adapted from a larger piece, a chapter in the book "Media Smackdown: Deconstructing the News and the Future of Journalism," co-authored by Aamidor, Jim A. Kuypers of Virginia Tech and Susan Wiesinger of Cal State-Chico. The book was published this year by Peter Lang USA.
Aamidor says that the article documents that some media outlets DO suppress details about race in reporting on crime, often in contravention of the media outlet's own policies, which typically permit reporting on race when such a detail adds to the other details -- such as gender, height, scarring, tattoos or any other identifying physical characteristics.
Aamidor argues that only the neo-Nazis and white power crazies benefit from this kind of self-censorship.
I tend to agree.
I always find it ironic when the Star (in paritcular) leaves out race in reporting a crime, but then Crime Stoppers, which runs ads in the paper in an effort to track down suspects, lists not only race, etc., but also includes a photo.
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