I spend a lot of time and energy promoting informed civic participation.

The problem is, informed participation requires accurate information. With the possible exception of loudmouth pundits on television and talk radio, I think we are all pretty weary of the fact-free slugfest that has replaced reasoned political debate. It has become a tired truism, but the ability of citizens to access credible information about our governing institutions is critical to our ability to engage in self-government.

Inadequate media coverage of local government is bad enough. When we can’t even rely on the accuracy of the information that is provided, either by local government officials or what’s left of our local media, how are citizens supposed to make informed decisions?

State government has reportedly been “cooking the books” over job creation figures for some time. The City-County Council recently had to subpoena the Mayor’s office to get information about a public document—a lease—that should have been a public record. And now—stunningly—we are told that the 30 million dollar deficit that threatened the viability of IPS and the jobs of hundreds of teachers, the looming 30 million dollar deficit that justified so many questionable decisions, never existed.

Think about that.

A while back, I posted about students who defended their disengagement from political life by saying they simply didn’t believe anything they read—that they considered it all to be spin and disinformation, and since they didn’t trust either the media or government to tell them what was really going on, they felt justified in opting out.

These days, it’s pretty hard to argue with that. And that doesn’t bode well for our American Experiment.


  1. You are telling extreme truth. I bailed out of the news media in the early 80’s as I saw the direction the media was going, and I wasn’t going to be a part of the problem.

    One has to be involved. You’ve got to find out for yourself what is going on. You do that by finding out who your government officials are and contact them. Then see what media has to offer, what you can find on the internet and compare the various sources. A lot of people don’t feel they have the time to do that, but there is little else as important.

  2. The 1st Amendment gives us freedom of speech; there is no requirement that this speech be based in truth. This loophole has been used at an astonishing rate in recent years by political figures, elected and wannabes, and most of the media parrots their words as gospel. And “gospel” is the sworn basis of lawmakers ruling Indiana and other red states to the disadvantage of millions of Americans. Indianapolis has only one daily newspaper and it is owned by Gannett who has condensed all local information into one small section of the paper (except the Sports section of course) and has included a daily advertisement supplement of a condensed version of USA Today containing national and international news. Was the “very flawed” process of reporting IPS expenses connected to the escalating number of vouchers provided using public education tax dollars and short-changing public schools in the process? Is this in any way connected to Pence’s proposal to phase out property taxes on businesses? Property taxes paid by home and business owners benefits all resident in many forms of services; public education is one of those fundamenal services but is one that we won’t see benefits – or deficits – of till in the future. I resent being lied to at every turn about everything and, being deaf, have the added disadvantage of trying to keep up with the news via crappy, unreadable closed captioning on all local news channels. What was once “unbelievable” has now become the normal level of providing information to all of us.

  3. Is this evidence that our system is in the death spiral? I have complained for years that facts about our government institutions are almost impossible to obtain for the layman. Talk radio has successfully turned opinion into fact for its devoted listeners and has killed honest debate. I think we have surrendered control of our government to the political parties and received nothing in return.

  4. My dad always read two newspapers a day plus the news magazines and Uncle Walter at 5PM. That got us kids used to paying attention. I think my generation had the Viet Nam war, the execution of 3 of our leaders and the DRAFT to focus our attention. Something about knowing that your government may send you to fight & die (against your will..and for NOTHING) to make you care about politics. Not sure what it might take for the new crop of kids to engage. Maybe if they threatened to send their electronic toys to Viet Nam? No Tweety? Ahhhhhhhhhh

  5. Just an echo of what others have said, and my own opinion. The Mega-Media including The Star decision making tree has profit at the top. How low The Star has sunk is illustrated by the big splashy front page article several weeks ago on Demons and Exorcism. We also have on a regular basis, people hunting for spirits, ghosts, demons and Aliens on Cable Channels. These programs present all this as facts. The book “Chariots of the Gods” was pseudoscience, as is Creation Science and Intelligent Design based upon the bible.
    Reporters have been replaced by Entertainers or Presenters. The Star certainly expends far more effort on Reporting Sports than it does on News. I can understand a paper would have an editorial slant to it. My expectation is to find that slant on the editorial page not in the news they decide report or not report.
    Politics has become a marketing campaign that adheres to the time tested Keep it Simple Stupid (KISS). Thus, we have meaningless and empty phrases like Hoosier Values, Family Values, Welfare Queens or Business Friendly.

  6. I am shocked about the IPS budget disclosure. I don’t understand how the School Board or the public didn’t look at the the budget on a regular basis.

    I lived in Minneapolis 31 years until returning to Indianapolis in 2009 after a career loss due to downsizing. The citizens there would NEVER have put up with this. Media coverage would have uncovered it before now. Investigative reporting (which was still alive and well) by local news outlets and the two newspapers in the Twin Cities would have been all over this.

    I hope an outside audit is done and the taxpaying public is fully informed as to the true budget picture for our schools. I am a product of Indianapolis Public Schools (1959- 1971) and the State University system (Purdue and IU). I feel sorry for the kids today. I think I got a much better education all-around education then than youth are today.

  7. It certainly doesn’t help that our schools no longer teach people how to think rationally, only what to think. It doesn’t help that schools don’t teach people how to debate critical topics, only to hurl profanities, repeat slogans, and insults opponents. Of course our schools don’t deserve all the credit for the diminishing cultural literacy and a lack of civility, but they have definitely contributed.

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