Wednesday, September 10, 2014

More Gannett Outrage: Indianapolis Star Refuses to Report on Council's Vote to Increase Public Safety Tax (w/update)

The huge news on Monday night was that the Indianapolis City-County Council approved a 43% increase in the public safety tax (from .35% to .50%) or a 9% plus increase (1.62% to 1.77%) if you look at that tax as part of the overall local option income tax.  Ostensibly the reason was a desire by the administration to hire more police officers to combat the city's rising crime rate.  A 65% increase in the local option income tax in 2007, also to hire more police officers, actually resulted in much fewer officers seven years after the tax was adopted.  It has been speculated that the real reason for the tax increase is to generate revenue to pay the private contractor that the city will employ to build and manage the new Justice Center which is supposed to be built at the old GM stamping facility.

Indianapolis Star Editor Jeff Taylor
Regardless, the story was big news, a development that would affect virtually every adult living in Marion County.  Yet incredibly the Star made the decision to not report the story in either the print or on-line editions of the paper.  In comparison, the Indianapolis Business Journal immediately reported the development as the lead story on its website.

What made the front page of the print edition of the Star was instead the story of a councilor who had introduced a measure to prohibit councilors from displaying signs on the floor of the council, a reaction to the previous council meeting when five councilors displayed "Hands Up" signs in solidarity to Ferguson protesters alleging police brutality after the shooting of an unarmed man.  An interesting, symbolic story, no doubt. But the proposal was hardly one that impacts Indy residents such as approval of the public safety tax increase.

Why didn't the Star report on the tax increase?  Undoubtedly because Indianapolis Star Editor Jeff Taylor knew tax increases are not popular and he didn't want Indy residents to know what the Council did and that Mayor Ballard was the driving force behind the tax increase.  To paraphrase what Taylor has told his employees:  "Our job is not to report the news.  Our job is to guide the news."   If that means leaving residents in the dark on important issues like tax increases and hiring police officers to combat an ever increasing crime rate, Taylor is more than willing to use his position to do that.  And that is why, folks, the Star's circulation continues to plummet.

UPDATE:  An alert reader posted a link to an on-line story.  I checked the Star's on-line edition out from the minute the story broke and never saw it on the Star's home page.  (The only story about the council on the Star's home page was the story about signs.)  The on-line story might have been buried in the news section of the on-line paper which would raise questions about that placement.  Nonetheless, I did doublecheck the print edition of the Star and unbelievably Tuohy's story on the public safety tax increase didn't make the cut. 


Sean Shepard said...

This is why I read the IBJ for business news. The IndyStar is basically just good for local Sports coverage and lining the bird cage.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Sean, use the Nuvo for lining your bird's cage. It's cheaper.

Anonymous said...

So essentially you're angry that you couldn't ind an article in a paper that you don't read or think anyone else ought to read?

jszilla said...

The article was on The Star's homepage the entire time. Your entire story is inaccurate and you should post an apology.

jszilla said...

It was also on page A3 of the print product. Get your facts straight next time.

Paul K. Ogden said...

No, jszilla, it was definitely not on the website's home page "the entire time." To the contrary. The council article that was on the front page of the home page was the article about the signs. You might want to get your facts straight the next time.

It was in the print edition. I didn't see it because the Star's editors had buried it.

Regardless, jszilla, the point remains that the Star's editors intentionally buried a big story. There is a huge difference between how many readers see a story on page 1 versus a small story on the inside pages. Do you really think the story about signs was so much more important than the story on the public safety tax increase?