Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What Will Dennis Ryerson's Legacy Be?

For the last nine years, the Indianapolis Star has been presided over by Editor-in-Chief Dennis Ryerson who recently announced his retirement.
Indianapolis Star Editor Dennis Ryerson

Is there anyone who thinks the Star is a better paper today than it was in 2003 when he took the helm?

The quality of the Indianapolis Star has declined dramatically in the last several years.  News staffs have been cut and the remaining reporters are underpaid and overworked.  Reporters have been told to not cover newsworthy stories because doing so would step on the toes of politically-powerful individuals.  There have been a few exceptions, but for the most part of you want quality investigative journalism today, you don't go to the Star, but rather to the Indianapolis Business Journal or even television reporters.  If you want stories where the writers do not shy away from controversy you go to the blogs.  There are few reasons to read the Star today.  The paper has become a collection of AP articles with a few noncontroversial local stories thrown in the mix.

To succeed the Star has to learn to adapt to modern technology, a world in which people are as likely to read their newspaper on their computers than a paper one delivered to one's home.  Ryerson's answer to the challenge was to cut the Star's quality and avoid controversy.  That was obviously not the right choice. Hopefully his successor will exercise better judgment.


Cato said...

His legacy will be that he rode the Star into the ground, turning it into the official press arm of the Indy power elite.

Ryerson considered his job to curry favor with the elite and to advance their agenda instead of digging up the news, reporting the news and exposing the bastards.

There are far more readers than there are elite, and Ryerson completely abandoned his readership, giving them no reason to subscribe or to drop a quarter in the paper box, every morning.

Now that he's no longer essential, his invitations to the right parties will start drying up, and he won't be able to retreat into the company of journalists, as he really wasn't one. He was simply a local plant manager at a corporate press outlet carrying out corporate policy.

Mencken, he's not.

I know said...

As he stated to several people about the dirt and filth of corruption by the politicians and wealthy friends was, "There is so much out there the Star cannot spend all its time investigating complaints against public officials"

The citizens of Indiana and Indianapolis deserve a purging of the corrupt thugs!

Bill said...

I'm not sure how you go to work every day knowing that every single one of your employees hates you.I guess Ryerson finally got the message.He has the bed side manner of a Charging elephant and the comparison of a rabid rabid pit bull.

He he and the Queen have managed to destroy a once great newspaper.

My only hope is that Straub is not far behind.They are two birds of a feather.

Pete Boggs said...

A long dead cow don't make for a feast much less a rodeo.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Cato, that is the best and most accurate thing you've ever written.

Cato said...

Paul, regarding accuracy, you'll take the most precise measurements when your primary goal is to see things as they are.

One cannot simultaneously be the most accurate reporter of the human condition while advocating for a particular worldview.

This tendency to break into partisan camps is the reason why American journalism is so colored and why the facts of any event must be synthesized from several press reports.

Is your aim in these pages, or on the bench, to be first a public advocate or a political advocate? An unflagging commitment to truth, a former requirement of journalists and a ceaseless requirement when you're enrobed, requires detachment from any party.

Here, you have the luxury to pick which bad guys you want to skewer. The local press, properly done, has no such discretion, as the public is due a searching eye. Neither, also, do judges have discretion in which bad guys are due public scorn and a spell in the dock.

Paul K. Ogden said...


You bring up a good point about there being political limits on judges.

But an elected judge gives you credibility and some ability to address issues relating to the legal profession and the legal system as it is operated. I can also do things like criticize judicial slating by the parties.

M Theory said...

As bad as Ryerson was, the Star will get someone worse as replacement. Watch.

Cato said...

True, Paul, a judicial election does give the public confidence in a seemingly transparent process. When judges come to the bench through other channels, the public can rightly view that murky and dubious process with the deepest cynicism.

Removing party affiliation from judicial elections further unburdens a judge from party political pressure, though not public accountability, and goes further to convince the public that there is no marionette back at party headquarters ultimately running the court and deciding cases.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Cato, agreed. The merit selection process can actually involve more politics,and politics of the worst kind. I have heard stories about people on the commission cutting deals, lobbying each other...all behind closed doors.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Cato has Rynearson's number, as do you, Paul. I am so disappointed in the pressitudes, as well as very, very angry at them.

Jim Brandyberry said...

Dennis is such a fine fellow. What is wrong with you haters?