Monday, September 20, 2010

Star's Editor Dennis Ryerson Sees Pure Ballard Adminstration Motives in Proposing Parking Contract, Attacks Bloggers for Just Producing "Noise"

Some of you may have missed Indianapolis Star editor Dennis Ryerson's column this weekend. In the column, Ryerson argues that the deal deserves close scrutiny. A more sarcastic me would say that's patently obvious. We are, after all, talking about a 50 year, no bid, no cancel contact in which the vendor is set to make as much as $1.2 billion.

What caught my eye though was Ryerson's statement:
For starters, there are no dishonorable entities here. The administration of Mayor Greg Ballard is hardly a cesspool of political patronage.
Ryerson then goes on to take a shot at bloggers, saying most are more about "noise" than substance.

The sad truth the Star wants to selectively present the facts, apparently to support a particular political agenda. The Star's editors get nothing short of angry and frustrated when bloggers, the Indianapolis Business Jouranal and television reporters don't shy away from objectively reporting facts, a job that used to be a function served by the Star.

Take the comment that the Ballard administration isn't a "cesspool of political patronage" and the suggestion that Ballard administration officials have pure motives in proposing the deal. The reference to "political patronage" is unfortunate. I should hope that a Mayor fills his administration with people of his or her own party. This isn't about political patronage, rather it is about self-interested insiders within the Ballard administration putting forth deals to enrich themselves or their clients at the public's expense.

Joe Loftus, a partner at Barnes & Thornburg, is on the City's payroll to render advice to the Mayor and lobby for the City. He also represents ACS the company that received the parking contract. (If you look up the city's lobbying registration's website, it's right there.) Loftus sits in on regular meetings with the Mayor.

One would think the Ryerson's Star would be all over pointing out this conflict. Nope. Not a word from the Star. In fact, the Star has done no detailed reporting on the ACS parking contract. Rather it's been the Indianapolis Business Journal, television news reporters and, yes, blogs, which have exposed the details in the parking contract.

While Ryerson critizes the blogs, he might consider why they are popular. The reason is that blogs are providing facts and details his own newspaper refuses to publish, apparently because those facts don't fit what the Star's editors want the story to be.

I do not believe the blogs are in any way a substitute for a quality newspaper. But if blogs makes the local newspaper return to doing its job of reporting the news objectively and without a political agenda, more power to them.


Indy Student said...

Actually, the Star did do an article on property taxes being diverted to the CIB. They even interviewed Pat Andrews for it. It's one of the rare times the Star has recognized blogs as first picking up on the story.

It's a shame the Star couldn't have been the producer of a critical piece like Renn's was on the Urbanophile.

Cato said...

"I do not believe the blogs are in any way a substitute for a quality newspaper."

A blog, no. The blogs, yes. Toss in Yahoo news, and I don't ever need a newspaper.

Paul K. Ogden said...

IS, I threw that in the end, though I wasn't sure my memory was correct. I'm going to edit to fix that.

Paul K. Ogden said...

IS, it was easier to just delete that paragraph so I did. I could have come up with plenty other examples though.

varangianguard said...

If Cato is quoting Mr. Ryerson, the quote is quite telling.

"Quality" newspaper. Indy no longer has one (unless one can count the IBJ).

Ben said...

The very fact that he mentions bloggers tells me that you are a threat to him.Why else bring it up.

Downtown Indy said...

I thought Denny was the one who originated the 'nobody reads the blogs' idea.

Hoosiers for Indiana said...

Is the mayor is trying to making his "administration a cesspool of political patronage", so he can get more funding to run for a second term?

Thanks for all your work.

Advance Indiana said...

Ryerson and the Star pretend our blogs aren't having an impact. The gratuitious hat-tipping to the out-of-town Renn is Ryerson's way of delivering the middle finger to us. Our blogs have far more credibility than him and it really sticks in his crawl. The fact is his reporters get many of their best story ideas from reading our blogs whether they admit it or not. If we're nothing but noise, then his reporters should stop stealing our work.


I think it was Bob Grand who first said no one reads the blogs.

Downtown Indy said...

Now that you mention it, HFFT, I think you are right. Clearly, the notion is wrong.

There once was a time we needed an operator to place phone calls, an attendent to run our elevators, a huge data center to providing computing.

The newspapers haven't quite figured out we don't need them to tell us what we need to know anymore, there are many other voices available.

The print media's impending extinction is totally in their control - feed us real news or feed us pablum. The way they cry, it's no wonder they are partial to pablum.

dcrutch said...

If it wasn't for the local blogs, 2/3 of the investigative reporting in this town would still be under a rock (and that's being generous).

Ryerson had the gall to ask in a recent Sunday column how the paper could better serve their disenchanted clientele.

How about balanced journalism and investigative reporting? That would require covering both ideological sides and the plight of all socio-demographic classes- not a special few.

What a concept.

The Urbanophile said...

Regarding blogs vs. newspapers, newspapers have far higher circulation, but they are aggregated products. How many people taking the Star do it for the sports? Or the coupons? Or something unrelated to any particular piece of content. Just because the Star has a 200,000+ circulation, doesn't mean that all of them - or any of them - are reading Tully. But everybody who reads a blog is there for one reason - to read the blogger. And in terms of reaching political influencers or a similar core audience, I'm guessing blogs are right up there.

I'm with Paul that blogs and newspapers can have a symbiotic relationship, though in practice it is often adversarial.

In the Star's defense, their industry is collapsing, and their budgets are getting slashed by the day, esp. as they are now owned by the notorious Gannett chain (USA Today). I know that many (probably all) reporters at the Star feel like they don't have the resources to do the job they want to.

But whatever the cause, unquestionably the IBJ is now the go to source for local news in the traditional media world.


Like I've said before, The Star sends me emails all the time asking me to subscribe to their....COUPONS!

Not once have they asked me to subscribe to the paper for the news.

They are a glorified Penny Saver!

dcrutch said...

Again, who wants to see newspapers die? Nobody I know. Nobody that wants a source of information of what's really going on. But, the newspapers (not all) are largely, blatently or latently, in a common ideological camp that is protective of whatever's deemed politically correct. The challenges and viewpoints of average conservative, middle class working person aren't prominent on their radar, including: How can we afford large new construction like Lucas Oil, Wishard, or the Library with all our education and infrastructure needs? Why are Indianapolis schools so bad despite all the money we put into them? Why do allow lousy parenting to go on? Why do we hand-out so many benefits to non-citizens when we're so deep in unemployment and debt?

The Star (I imagine from Gannett), doesn't seem "permitted" to present even-handed journalism. Look at the headlines of USA Today for two-weeks- how their headlines are phrased- what is and isn't mentioned. Then, remember this is the company that owns the Star, even IF Ryerson wanted to give balanced coverage of current events.

The irony is, if there were to be balanced coverage (given the very genuine limitations they have), the fiscal success of Fox and the Wall Street Journal says the patrons are out there.

Journalistic ethics says they should do it. Fiscal strategy says they should do it. The corruption of local government says they should do it. What's the problem?