Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jim Shella's Indiana Week in Review Avoids Topic of Durham FBI Raid and Political Fallout; Vacuum for Media to Provide New Local Political Show

This week featured a huge story with the business offices of local businessman Tim Durham being raided by the FBI. Durham had been a huge contributor to, chiefly, Republican political types. Durham has given over $150,000 to Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi and $200,000 to Governor Mitch Daniels. The fallout resulted in Tim Motsinger, who was probably the leading candidate Republican candidate for Marion County Sheriff, dropping out because of his ties to Durham and the fact Motsinger had received a $200,000 loan from one of Durham's companies, Fair Finance. The story also came out this week that Brizzi, who had been elected a board member of Fair Finance, resigned from that position and tried to distance himself from the raid. Unbeknownst to the media, at the same time the raid was going on, the U.S. Attorney's Office was filing to seize Durham's personal and business bank accounts, his home and three other properties. The allegations against Durham in the forfeiture complaint are wire fraud, money laundering, and one that many reporters are missing, tax evasion. In the end, it is almost always the tax allegations which are the ones that get you.

Obviously this is a huge political story, the biggest political story of the month and one of the biggest of the year. So how did Jim Shella of Channel 8, who hosts local political show Indiana Week in Review, handle the issue? He completely ignored it. As one can tell from reviewing his list of topics, Shella went out of his way to find non-Durham related topics on what otherwise would have been a slow news week:

-Casino bankruptcies
-Marlin Stutzman calls Evan Bayh an “empty suit”
-Dan Burton plays up his Washington experience
-Will Becky Skillman run for governor?
-Restoration of Obama family home in Tipton County
-Sarah Palin lookalike from Hamilton County

The knock on Shella is that as a political reporter, he is far too cozy with political insiders and does not want to challenge them with his reporting. When a reporter becomes friends with political types, the inevitable result is that the reporter doesn't want to do the tough stories that might harm his or her friends. That is human nature.

It has been obvious for a long time that IWIR has turned stale. Tuning into his show all you typically hear are the Republican or Democratic insider positions (and with Mike McDaniel you also get the view of a paid lobbyist) with little in the way of independent thought occasionally brought to the table by the non-Shella reporters. But I never believed Shella's coziness with insiders was so bad that he would deliberately ignore the Durham story, a story that cuts at the very heart of insider politics that dominate Indianapolis and, to a lesser degree, Indiana politics.

If there were ever a time for a news outlet to start a fresh show dealing with local politics, the time is now. IWIR is not going to address the tough issues or at least address the tough issues in such a way that is going to step on the toes of political insiders. Imagine the ratings a new show dealing with local politics in a fresh and independent way would receive. Within a month or two such a show would eclipse the viewership of IWIR. In a year, it would have double the audience of IWIR. People don't tune into shows like IWIR because they are clamoring to hear the Republican or Democratic positions on the issues. They do so because they want fresh, interesting and independent analysis of the news. They are not getting that from IWIR.


Downtown Indy said...

Or just rename to Indiana Weak In Review?

I know said...

The Indy channel has done far more reporting and fact finding than anyone else at this point of the mainstream media. The information below should have people asking a few questions....
November 25, 2009
Politicians Distance Themselves From Indy Businessman Tim Durham Donated More Than $800K To Politicians
...A search of campaign finance records showed that [he] contributed at least $809,653 to candidates and political committees, virtually all of them Republicans, at the local, state and federal levels in the last few years... Gov. Mitch Daniels... received the most Durham money at $280,000. Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi, who acknowledged Durham as a friend, got $178,949 of
the financier's cash and services, and had been asked to serve on the board of Fair Financial. ...the state GOP received at least $150,000 from Durham, and the Marion County party and its finance arm got $66,200. ...House [GOP] leader Brian Bosma and his caucus's campaign committee received $54,580. ...[&] donated $5,600 to Democratic Congressman Baron Hill.

M Theory said...

Paul, I hope you dont mind too much, but I pasted your analysis of Shella on his blog.

Paul K. Ogden said...

HFFT, That's fine. Shella seems awfully sensitive to criticism for someone in the spotlight. After trading emails with Shella after his goofy reporting on our event earlier this year, I' became convinced the angle he took and the cheap shots (such as taking Mark Small's comments completely out of context to make it look like he was against public education) was his way of paying back Gary Welsh for Welsh's criticism of his reporting. Reporters need to show more objectivity and a thicker skin than that or they need to get in another profession.

Paul K. Ogden said...

I Know,

Actually WRTV (indychannel) was the only news media that missed the story on the Durham forfeiture filing. Otherwise, I agree with you. Fox59 has also been impressive and WTHR has done some good in depth pieces exposing problems in government. It's strange that tv stations are now often doing more in depth pieces than the Indy Star.

M Theory said...

Paul...the Indy Star is busy trying to give away free holiday subscriptions to their advertising.

I've had solicitations to subscribe to their advertising coupons both from email and from someone at my door.

They don't even pretend that they are selling news subscriptions anymore.

Gary R. Welsh said...

The show has become Ice Miller Week In Review. Jim Shallow knows who signs his paycheck. He's not going to draw any unnecessary attention to a Ponzi scheme run by a former attorney with his show's sponsor. If Lacy Johnson doesn't clear the topic, Shallow won't discuss it.