Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Indianapolis Star Shreds Journalistic Integrity, Accepts Benefit of $5.5 Million from City Officials to Make Its Property More Valuable

Being down in Tampa for the summer (oh why couldn't this job assignment come during the middle of last winter?), I tend to miss things.  One story though I that initially escaped my attention that I would like to come back to though was one which appears to only be covered by Pat Andrews of Had Enough Indy.  More on that in a second.

For years, I've been astonished by the Indianapolis Star's flat-out to refusal to do investigative pieces on local government or to pen any articles, for that matter, critical of city officials.  The Star had no trouble sending its reporters down Market Street to write the occasional slam piece on state executive and legislative officials, but when it came to the City, well, the Star's readers have been given nothing.   Good examples are the issue of conflicts of interests and the revolving door.  The Star has no problem savaging legislators who are taken out for meals by legislators or those executive officials who leave state employment to take jobs  with government contractors.  Yet the Star has remained silent when government contractors wanting lucrative city contracts donate tens of thousands of dollars to the Ballard administration.   And what of administration officials who leave Indianapolis city government and go to work for those same contractors?  Has the Star ever report critically on Paul Okeson leaving the Mayor's Office to become a top executive official with Keystone Construction whose job is to get more money and contracts from the City?  No, the Star has remained silent while some of the worst abuses take place just a few hundred feet away from its offices.

Speaking of those Pennsylvania Street offices that the Star owns which are being abandoning in favor of Circle Centre Mall, well it looks like the newspaper is getting the benefit of a bunch of taxpayer money that will improve the area and make the Star's real estate much more valuable prior to any future sale.  And who decided to do this for the Star.  Well the Ballard administration, the same administration that the Star refuses to write critical articles about.  Pat Andrews reports:
Resolution 2014-B-002 goes to the MDC for a vote Wednesday. (Note:  This was last Wednesday.  Not sure if it passed but given how stacked the MDC is with mayoral appointments, I'm sure that it did.) 
This resolution would float $5.5 Million in bonds as taxpayer investment in two projects - the "Pulliam Place" and "Millikan-On-Mass" projects.
The Pulliam Place project will take about $3 M of the money.  The agreement was worked out an unknown number of months ago, and has been wending its way through the MDC system - first being discussed at the Economic Development Committee meeting in early May, and then again by all of the Commissioners at their May 21 pre-meeting.

During this time, the Star failed to inform readers of its many editorials and opinion pieces that the deal was pending, a clear violation of the Code of Ethics as expressed by the Society of Professional Journalists.  Under "Act Independently", the third item on its Code of Ethics webpage, the SPJ says in part:
Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know.
Journalists should:
—Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
— Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
— Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
The Ballard Administration gift of taxpayer money would be repaid by revenues of the Consolidated Downtown TIF. 
And what do you get for your gift?
 Some vaguely described improvements to N. Talbot, E. New York, and E. Vermont Streets, a dog park, and improvements of the existing Star building parking garage.
And how does this benefit you, the taxpayer?
Why the Pulliam Project is anticipated to create 49 new full-time jobs by mid-2017.  There is no mention in the resolution of the average salary of those positions.  And, there is no requirement that this number be reached.  That works out to a taxpayer investment of over $61,000 per job.  Of course the sales price of the Star building will rise concomitantly with the taxpayer gift.  One would also expect the time to sale would shorten with this sweetener, as well.   
There taxpayers who pay attention to such things, are familiar with the extravagant accumulation of TIF funds and equally extravagant expenditure of the same, all while elected officials, including Mayor Ballard, seek tax increases to pay for basic services.  This one is different in that it calls into question the independence and integrity of the Indianapolis Star
Pat also points out the absurdity of the part of the resolution which suggests an independent review of the worthiness of the project would be done by the Bond Bank.  The Bond Bank  is headed by a Ballard appointee  Deron "If My Lips are Moving I'm Lying" Kintner who was undoubtedly involved in the project to begin with.

The Indianapolis Star appears to have completely compromised its journalistic integrity and not a word from fellow journalists on the subject.  I can understand the Star not writing critically of itself, but what of the other media outlets?

I guess it is not surprising that the Star continues to lose readers.


Flogger said...

Integrity is a word long ago deleted from The Star's vocabulary. The Star for decades has been comfortable with the Concept and Application of Crony-Capitalism.

Mark Dickhaus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Dickhaus said...

best source of investigative in-depth reporting today is IBJ.