Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

The "newsroom of the future" and the (ir)relevance of The Indianapolis Star: Saturday's Show.

   The Kokomo Tribune (pronounced, by most locals, TRIBune) was an afternoon paper. When it was delivered, my mother would grab it to read about whomever had received a speeding ticket, filed for divorce, or died. She was into gossip. That newspaper was important, to me, for its coverage of local sports and, later, the occasional photograph or item about some debate award or other thing I had received.
   For national or international—i.e., “real”—news, my old man received The Indianapolis Star every morning at his office. The Star also had good coverage of local and State-wide events.
   When I was 13 years old, I did not understand what Bobby Kennedy meant when, in his victory speech after the Indiana Democratic Presidential Primary, he sarcastically thanked Eugene Pulliam for “making this all possible.” I did not have a full appreciation for how right-wing The Star’s owner was. Only later, for example, did I read his column, run on the front-page immediately before the 1960 election scurrilously attacking John F. Kennedy over that candidate’s Catholicism.
   Despite differences between my beliefs and those of the then-owners of The Indianapolis Star, the paper seemed to perform a pretty good job as a “check” on local political corruption. I know a lot of the articles about international and national events were from one of the wire services. The paper had a lot of information. And the sports section was decent, especially on Sundays and—especially for Indiana—when it came to the Indianapolis 500 and the Indiana High School boys’ basketball tournament.
   The elder Pulliams probably felt they had locked The Star into ownership by the family in perpetuity. They established a trust to hold the paper for the benefits of the Pulliams heirs. However, some lawyers reviewed the trust documents (from what I understand of how things played out) and advised the heirs that a trust can be dissolved if all of the beneficiaries to the trust agree. That was done and, near what must have been the height of its value, The Star was sold. Gannett—the corporation that brought McNews to the doors of many hotel rooms nationwide, now owns The Indianapolis Star.
   The Indianapolis Star is much thinner today. Gone are most of the classified ads. After all, why screw around with classifieds in a newspaper when one can look things up on the internet?
   Gone, too, from the paper, are a lot of the writers who made the paper what appeared to be a “check” on local political corruption.
   When I read items about national or international events, usually I already have read parts, if not all, of each such item on-line the previous evening.
   Also gone is any feel that The Indianapolis Star acts as a “check” on local political corruption. As the mayor hands out free land parcels to campaign contributors, the paper cheerleads, it does not question. The paper seemed to take the Mayor and his people at their word that The Super Bowl® was a good deal for Indianapolis in 2012—i.e., we made a profit—although no one seemed to press the Mayor for the exact numbers. When I want good local coverage of political matters, I go to Pat Andrews’ “Had Enough Indy?” or Gary Welsh’s “Advance Indiana” or one of the other local blogs.
   Two weeks ago I bought DVDs of the first two seasons of “House of Cards,” the political series that stars Kevin Spacey and details corruption in Washington, D.C. The show is fiction, but if, as has been reported in various sources, the show is a favorite amongst this country’s political leaders, the myth behind its story-line, one may reasonably infer, is somewhat accurate.
   In that series, the fictional “Washington Herald” struggles to compete with on-line news outlets. During one “chapter”—the series labels its episodes “chapters”—a reporter goes to work for “Slugline,” a new on-line news source. The “newsroom” is an open space in which people sit on the floor, using laptops or iPads and cell phones. At least the people for “Slugline” try to root out stories in the manner of newspapers of old.
   Is this the newsroom of the future?
   This Saturday, Dan Carpenter, formerly of The Indianapolis Star and author of several books, will join us to talk about “the newsroom of the future.” Other journalists will join us for what will be, in all likelihood, a spirited discussion. “Civil Discourse Now” streams live from 11 am to 1 pm on Saturday. Please join us.

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