What’s missing and what soon could be gone from the pages of your Indianapolis Star.
Environmental beat coverage
The Star’s beat writer on environmental issues left the paper a couple of years ago. Her position was never filled. Indiana has some grievous pollution problems. But now those issues get almost no coverage in The Star.
Faith and Values coverage
The Saturday Faith and Values page used to be filled with stories about local congregations, local personalities in religion circles and about holidays and events in the religious community. When that reporter left the paper, those Faith and Values stories left with him.
John Ketzenberger was an award-winning business columnist for The Star. But when he left a couple of years ago, following the downsizings and the pay cuts, for a new opportunity, The Star lost its voice on business. And it hasn’t been replaced.
Until about a year ago, The Star had reporter and columnist Dan Lee dedicated to covering the business of health care, which is a major industry in Indianapolis (think Wellpoint, Anthem, our hospitals). But following the pay cuts and furloughs, Dan opted for a new career. We’ve never replaced him. And a vital corner of our community goes largely uncovered.
The Star used to have its own movie reviewer, who livened up weekend sections with her previews of new movies and stories about upcoming projects. Her job was eliminated in a cost-cutting purge two years ago, and now movie reviews appear more sporadically in the paper, if at all.
The Star’s technology writer, Erika Smith, kept readers abreast of the latest innovations — from the latest iPhone and iPad to cell phones and other gadgets. But when Erika filled a long-vacant job as Metro columnist, technology got turned off.
The Star’s latest round of layoffs was devastating to suburban coverage, with eight reporters getting the ax. As a result, The Star is reducing its number of suburban zoned editions from 11 to five. That means less news about your local schools, local government and local communities.
Higher education coverage
The Star once had a reporter dedicated to covering higher education. In the past couple of years, with staff reductions, that’s no longer the case. Instead, a reporter with several other responsibilities tries to do the job. It’s another example of how corporate cost-cutting and executive bonus preservation have hurt local news coverage.
The Star, until two years ago, had a full-time reporter dedicated to the coverage of a variety of religious issues, including Catholics coping with the priest shortage, how megachurches use technology to share their message, and political activism among churches. Staff reductions forced the religion writer to divert his attention elsewhere, leaving religion mostly unattended.
The Star used to cover the Boilermakers like a blanket, particularly in football and basketball, with its own skilled sportswriters. Now, The Star relies on its Gannett sister paper in Lafayette to cover Purdue. And it’s just not the same. Purdue Pete deserves better.
The Star used to have a reporter dedicated to covering the federal courts and another for the city courts. The federal court position disappeared a few years ago. Now, it appears, the city court beat will disappear too. So in matters ranging from murder trials to lawsuits, how is a community to know if justice is served?
For the paper in the state’s capital, this should be a bread-and-butter beat. But The Star’s coverage here has been scaled back. The paper once kept a minimum of three reporters in the Statehouse keeping tabs on your government and your elected representatives. Now, the paper is down to one full-time person. Do you really want fewer eyes on your government?
OK, this isn’t a beat that we cover. But it’s an important job in the production of a good newspaper. Copy editors not only catch bad grammar and misspelled names, but they improve the writing, ensure stories are fair and accurate and write crisp headlines. The latest round of layoffs, though, reduced the number of copy editors by 41 percent. It’s meant that more errors have gotten into the newspaper. What’s worse, there’s talk the copy editing may be outsourced to Kentucky, which could not only mean fewer eyes proofing the copy but that the copy editors won’t even be local people who know this community.
Again, not a beat, but an important job. When there’s a disaster at the fairgrounds at 8:35 p.m. or word comes at 11 p.m. that Osama bin Laden is dead, who do you think rips up the front page of The Star to make way for the big news? Page designers. But Gannett wants to consolidate its page designers in a hub in Louisville to save money. The Star’s pages would be designed by people trying to do that same job for several newspapers at a time in the same night. At a minimum, it could make for a generic newspaper that will lose its local feel. At worse, it could mean that late-night makeovers will be done sloppily, if at all, and with potentially embarrassing mistakes that a person living and working in Indy wouldn’t make.