There used to be a radio show hosted by Paul Harvey called “The Rest of the Story.” It would begin with a “story,” be interrupted by a commercial, and then conclude with a recitation of facts that made you realize that what you’d been hearing was a different take on a familiar biography or event.
I’ve thought about the rest of the story several times in the past couple of days–and especially about the obligation of journalists to share with their readers those facts that constitute the “rest of the story.” Reporting is supposed to be about digging beneath surface recitations–giving readers all of the facts relevant to a situation, whether they confirm a partisan’s preferred telling or not.
The first example was a glowing, puff piece in the Star about the successes of the Tindley Academy, a charter school operating in the Meadows neighborhood. The rigor of the school was credited with stabilizing the neighborhood–attracting and retaining the right kind of parents. The Mayor was quoted as saying he planned to use similar charters to help revitalize other neighborhoods.
A friend sent me a link to Department of Education statistics showing that, year after year, the school has enrolled 100 students and graduated 20. As he noted, charter schools can and do dismiss students for numerous reasons, including academic non-performance that might drag down their averages.
Once I knew “the rest of the story,” Tindley didn’t look quite like the panacea for revitalization that the Mayor suggested.
The second example was a column by Matt Tully, supporting the Broad Ripple development that would include Whole Foods. The arguments he made were reasonable ones; however, as my husband–and subsequently Paul Ogden–both pointed out, the way in which Tully framed the debate was less than accurate.
Tully focused upon whether the reuse of the parcel was appropriate, and whether a Whole Foods is compatible with Broad Ripple’s character. As he framed it, such a redevelopment would be a welcome detour from the over-reliance on bars in the Village. Hard to argue with that.
Except that isn’t what the argument is about.
The question is not: would a Whole Foods be nice on that corner? The questions actually being debated are: should the city be subsidizing (to the tune of some $6,000,000) a development that will include a grocery that will compete with the existing (unsubsidized) Broad Ripple grocery? And is the design of the proposed development–which includes apartments and other elements in addition to the Whole Foods–consistent with the character of the neighborhood?
Now, reasonable people can certainly come to different conclusions about those questions, but knowing what the dispute is actually about would seem to be a pretty important “rest of the story.”
Where’s Paul Harvey when you need him?