The bricks come tumblin' down

Dateline: Tue 12 May 2015


Columnists' exodus

Dateline: Mon 04 May 2015

    With the news a couple weeks ago that Indy Star city/state columnists Matt Tully and Erika Smith are "moving on," Tully to take up the sweet, round-about way of life in Carmel (but still write for the Indy newspaper), and Smith re-locating to Sacramento, Calif., the general response has been "meh."

    Among readers, anyhow. Not quite so much journalists and avid Star readers.

    Those of us who worked at the Star with Tully have been mostly scratching our heads over why the longtime champion of all things Indy would choose to abandon Patachou at 49th and Penn, where he sometimes conducts interviews and regularly drinks high-priced coffee, to head north to 146th and Springmill Road -- that's where he's going with his wife and young son.

     Maybe it's the way he delivered his message. Tully tried to wrap his brick in a velvet blanket by announcing his move to Carmel in a column praising that city's ambitious mayor.

    As a friend said, "And did you see Tully bury the lead in his bullshit Carmel column?....Mr. 'I Love Indianapolis' is moving to Carmel."

Someone who knows Tully says the decision is mostly about schools. Tully was always wringing his hands over IPS, sometimes trying to make a sale on its many merits but coming short and sounding preachy or too rah-rah to be persuasive or credible.

So rather than pay for private education in Indy, he and his family are doing what many others have done -- move to Carmel where schools are highly rated but lacking in racial, economic and cultural diversity, which is its own form of poverty.

The other attractions are the typical suburban blah-blah: bigger house, bigger yard, That's fine, and nobody really believes a columnist has to live in the city to write about the city.

But it does help.

As for Erika Smith, girl is even more of a cheerleader than Tully -- both these people have done a ton of public relations during their newspaper careers, fronting for various causes and people, Tully in the political/education arena and Smith just about everywhere else it was cool to be.

Smith never met a trendy bandwagon she did not hop on, whether it's advocating (over and over and over) for publc transit, the 10-Point Coalition, same-sex marriage or the hip life Downtown. At least Tully makes an effort to analyze some issues; Smith's approach has been largely shallow and one-note.

But so it goes. Big-city newspaper columnists once sat on a golden throne, kings of the hill -- think of Tom Keating at the Star, Mike Royko in Chicago, Jimmy Breslin in New York. These guys were gifted at nuance, wit and story-telling; they were also hard-hitting and could also slug it out and make readers think outside the box.

With the exception of Neil Steinberg at the Chicago Sun-Times, that era is pretty much gone and done.

     So best to Tully and Smith, but remember, when doing PR, you might want to get your paycheck from a PR firm. Then, on the other hand, that's what Gannett is.







Grading the Sunday Star

Dateline: Sun 08 Mar 2015

A former editor at the Evansville Press used to say, on a day when stories were reported exceptionally well,  "The paper is very readable today."

Here's what I found readable in today's Sunday Indy Star:

*Sports reporter Zak Keefer's look at the late sports editor Bob Collins' contributions to covering black basketball in the days when Crispus Attucks High School made history. The story not only outlined the racial tension in the city and state but delved into Collins' infamous alcoholism (and, the paper's enabling). Many good anecdotes and quotes from Collins, showing his deft writing style. 

Keefer did his digging, reporting former sports editor Jep Cadou's defense of the racial status quo. Cadou believed, apparently, that black players with 'jumping jack legs' and the ability to dunk the ball were not playing the sport as it was intended. Collins saw it another way, and nothing could stop his bold writing.

This is a 60-year-old story.  It was March 1955 when "Attucks players persevered over death threats, racial bigotry and partisan referees on their way to a historic state title." 

Keefer includes meaningful insight from Milan bb star Bobby Plump, who was walking around the big city before the big game. Drivers would see the Milan team, roll down their windows, and "...shout at us, 'Go beat those (expletive) n----s!" Says Plump, "I'd never heard (that language) before."

Excellent history lesson.

*'That Ayres Look' by Leslie Bentley and Will Higgins, which highlights the Indiana Historical Society's exhibit, 'You Are There: That Ayres Look.' True, the story consists of yet another list: '10 Fun Facts from L.S. Ayres & Co. History.' But the writers pack a lot of fun punch, including the info that Fort Wayne native Bill Blass had his first fashion show at Ayres in 1958; that Ayres once boasted the city's top bookstore, but only three people showed up when author Kurt Vonnegut was there to autograph 'Slaughterhouse Five' -- and all three were relatives (many of us know this story, but we still chuckle); and the quote former fashion editor Betsy Harris pulled from then-Ayres president Daniel Evans in 1992, when the store was closing: "The problem is a lot of people are nostalgic about it, but they chose not to shop down there. Nostalgia cannot be turned into sales dollars."

*Deft handling by columnist John Ketzenberger on the 'religious freedom bill,' which, Ketz notes, will simply result in 'a litigation nightmare," says Cameron Carter, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce's vice pres of economic development. "We believe Indiana doesn't need this when there is already federal protection on the books," he adds (no kidding). In case you have any doubt about the lawsuit angle, a letter to the editor from an IU law professor argues that we do need this bill because federal protection is not enough. But then, he understandably wants "valuable guidance to Indiana courts" so everyone can have their proverbial day in court.

*Gregg Doyel's Page 1 sports column on the fights that have been breaking out at Indiana school basketball games. Doyel talks about where some of these fights have occurred, the root cause (we are filled with anger) and suggests that, if we don't get our emotions and impulses under control, games may be played in empty gyms. 

I believe it was Friday that I heard a sports show on WIBC radio address the issue, but still....good reporting.

Anyone else like other stories? 



Outta there

Dateline: Thu 05 Mar 2015

The word is that photographer Frank Espich is the latest Indy Star staffer to decide to quit the newspaper.

April 1 will be his last day.

April's Fool? 

I doubt it. 


No cheers for pouring her pint of Guinness

Dateline: Thu 05 Mar 2015

The Indy Star has an article in the Living section today in which beverage reporter (still laughing) Amy Haneline tells readers how she poured a Guinness at Brockway Pub in Carmel.

Before this was published, it was a video on the Star's dreadful, horrid, boilerplate website -- you can look it up. But you won't want to.  

You know, as do I, that this whole damn thing is too silly to bother.

The "story" is little more than a big fat free ad, or filler, padded by lists. It's also another signal that at Gannett, it's all about the web, 'bout the web, 'bout the web....

Gannett does, however, love its little lists, so Haneline offers up six "Here's how it's done" instructions: how to pull the handle, how to hold the glass, how to let the beer settle, etc. My favorite is No. 6: "Present and enjoy. Don't spill." Thank you, Betty O'Crocker, 1957. 

Readers also get a list of five other Irish-style pubs where Guinness is served in the city, including two that are chains.

Faith and begorrah,  there are a number of fine Irish beer joints in this city, but the newspaper's lack of institutional memory ignores what may be the king -- Connor's Pub in Broad Ripple, tucked away on a back street (6331 Ferguson) in a former house. Connor's has been serving patrons since 1980, and no more so than on St. Patrick's Day.

The final gulp: nowhere do we read or hear the nickname for the head of foam on a Guinness -- the bishop's collar.

Research? Easier to put on some makeup and pull a lever. 





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