A Civic Help-Wanted Ad

For those unfamiliar with the term, copy editors are the people hired by newspapers and magazines to make the copy “clear, correct, concise, comprehensible, and consistent.”  According to the Free Dictionary, copy editors should ensure that a story “says what it means, and means what it says.”

Typically, copy editing involves correcting spelling, punctuation, grammar, terminology, jargon, and semantics.

A number of us who inexplicably continue to subscribe to the Indianapolis Star have remarked on the increased number of spelling and grammar errors that have escaped a copy editor’s notice over the past couple of years. (As a former High School English teacher, these errors affect me like nails on a blackboard.)

However annoying the obvious reduction in, or absence of, copy editing, that problem pales in importance beside the much more consequential reduction in the reporting of actual news,and especially the absence of government oversight. Coverage of City Hall and the Statehouse are virtually non-existent; the absence of reporters with institutional memory, investigative instincts and the time to do more than superficial reports on such issues as do surface leaves citizens without any reliable way to evaluate the performance of our government officials and agencies.

The most recent example (and by no means the worst) has been the coverage of Secretary of State Connie Lawson’s attribution of mistakes found on multiple voter registration forms to fraud, ostensibly by an organization focused upon registering African-American voters.

I have no idea whether Lawson’s claims are well-founded or politically motivated.(She was, after all, a co-sponsor of Indiana’s Voter ID law, which aimed to solve a nonexistent problem.) What’s worse, however, is the fact that until the third or fourth story about the controversy, I had no idea what she was alleging. The articles were so badly written that I couldn’t make heads or tails of what the issue was–nor could several friends who’d also read it. And when a follow-up story did clarify the nature of the controversy, it was presented as “she said”/”he said.” There was no indication that reporters had made any effort to independently assess the validity of the competing assertions.

If you are wondering what triggered this particular post, it was the Star’s recent announcement that it is once again trimming its editorial staff (i.e. reporters), and moving what is left of its pitifully inadequate copyediting out-of-state. (I wonder how an out-of-state copy editor would make the Lawson story, which depends upon a basic understanding of Indiana law and practice “clear, correct, concise, comprehensible, and consistent.”)

Ever since Gannett acquired the Star, the quality–and more importantly, the scope– of its reporting has declined. The paper was never a shining beacon of journalism, but it did employ actual reporters, it did cover state and local government, it did report on something other than sports, entertainment and the opening of new bars.

If there’s an entrepreneur out there who wants to find a currently unserved market, Indianapolis could really use a credible newspaper. (Online is fine.)

43 thoughts on “A Civic Help-Wanted Ad

  1. Journalism has, all told, suffered greatly in the last 30 years. Even online it’s getting very difficult to know whose words or visuals to trust and whose to disregard as biased drivel. The only way to tell is to try and find more than one independent source that is saying the same thing, and even that can be deceptive. Not a good situation.

  2. Whew, I thought old age had really set in. Those Lawson reports really had me befuddled. Now I understand why.

  3. Add to that, the man running for the Senate seat for the Republican party is related by marriage to Dan Quayle who sits on the Board of Directors of Central Newspapers Inc. That group is owned by Gannet who owns the Star that endorsed Rep. Young for the Senate. Connect the dots.
    There really is no reliable, consistent, local reporting being done in Indianapolis. IBJ comes close as does NUVO occasionally. Otherwise, we are subject to the whims of the Arizona based infotainment network that passes for a newspaper in this market.

  4. And the headlines always contained “fraud”, with no discussion of what constitutes fraud and what was actually investigated or what led to the investigation in the first place. I heard Terry Curry told Lawson and the State Police to quit discussing this in the public forum as fraud until the investigation was complete. But the seed has been planted and many won’t be interested in any further details – mission accomplished.

  5. Your posts have become my source for Indiana news. I just wished I was close enough to take one of your classes.

  6. I saw that announcement of layoffs and simply thought what difference does it make anyway, if they don’t really report anything newsworthy.

    I read yesterday that the state police made it clear that they would no longer discuss the “fraud” investigation at all anymore. Hmmm. And, why was Lawson to quick to put the possibility of fraud out into the public news before she even knew what was going on? Sounds like the Pence news machine that he wanted to force on the state is actually in business.

  7. Newspapers?! Heck, I’d be thrilled with just one local, reliable, in depth reporting TV news outlet.

    When we all complain about low voter turnout in Indiana the lack of real in time information about the government is at the root of that problem.

  8. Jeff Neufer; I will respond to your comment first. Indianapolis used to have THREE subscription newspapers, the third being the Indianapolis Times. The Indianapolis Star and Indianapolis News were both owned and operated by Eugene Pullium; then the News became defunct and we were left with the remnants of the Star. Steve Goldsmith was married to Margaret Pullium; granddaughter of Eugene. This explains his popularity (even with the many threats on his life) with local residents as Prosecutor and Mayor…but that is another story.

    Working for the City of Indianapolis from 1972 to 1994 as office clerk, in secretarial positions and administrative assistant, I have often edited other’s writings. While working for the Municipal Court Probation Department I often found errors between police reports and pre-sentence Investigation reports which were delivered to judges to aid in their decisions. It was vital that these errors be corrected; at times I had to deal directly with the Chief Probation Officer who had some personal quirks, resulting in him changing information to reflect his view. When called to his attention (I seemed to be the only one doing this); the PSIs went to court with his view of crimes and criminals. This was in the 1980’s; deliberate misinformation was and may not always the fault of copy editors.

    We have no way of knowing today how often this is happening in the political arena. Sheila; as an aside, this blog brought to mind a confrontation between our mutual friend B.C. and myself when he told me to correct the incorrect information in a report and I responded, “That isn’t my job.” He bellowed his “That’s not your job!” which scared me to death. I explained that I had no idea what the correct information was because I didn’t perform the inspection; merely read the report and accompanying documents which didn’t coincide. He calmed down, the report was returned to the monitor and I survived the confrontation…lol.

    Moving Indianapolis Star copyediting out of state makes sense only to Gannett – I doubt the Indianapolis Star employees at all levels understand this move and removal of more Star employees locally. Will the next Gannett decision involve moving moving copyediting offshore? This is highly likely in my estimation. There is very little (if any) reporting seen of the two seemingly investigative journalists at the Star; Stephanie Wang and Brian Eason who reported in-depth regarding RFRA/LGBTQ issues and Abandon Indy respectively. These are issues which are being dealt with – or ignored – on the national level in most cases.

    How much of the current national issues plaguing the Clinton campaign are being misedited deliberately or are depending on Wikileaks for “facts”? There needs to be no investigation of Trump’s issues because he spouts them repeatedly himself and they are parroted by Mike Pence. I had to turn off “Morning Joe” after the partial interview regarding the continued support of Trump being due to his one statement during the primaries that he would work for our families. No mention that those families he will “work” for are a select white group; he intends to deport most other families.

    We need to keep track, as much as is possible today, and mentally edit information to glean facts but must do our own research to reach rational decisions. Sorry this is so long but…I am so sick of it all I would like to go to sleep and not wake up till time to vote on November 8th.

  9. The post today reminds me of IZVESTIA.

    The word izvestia in Russian means delivered message, derived from the verb izveshchat (“to inform,” “to notify.” In the context of newspapers it is usually translated as “news” or “reports.”

    Also from Wikipedia:

    Origin

    The newspaper began as the News of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers Deputies on 13 March [O.S. 28 February] 1917 in Petrograd. Initially, the paper expressed Menshevik and Socialist-Revolutionary Party views.

    In August 1917 it took the title News of the Central Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. By October 1917 it became News of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets of Working and Military Deputies, and was eventually retitled News of the Soviets of People’s Deputies.

    After the Second All-Union Congress of Soviets, Izvestia became an official newspaper of the Soviet government (Central Executive Committee of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union and Sovnarkom).

    History
    1917–1991

    Old Izvestia logo. It uses two letters that are no longer used in the Russian language (see Reforms of Russian orthography).

    During the Soviet period, while Pravda served as the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party, Izvestia expressed the official views of the Soviet government as published by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.[3] The full name was Izvestiya Sovetov Narodnykh Deputatov SSSR (in Russian, Известия Советов народных депутатов СССР, the Reports of Soviets of Peoples’ Deputies of the USSR).
    1992–present

    Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Izvestia now describes itself as an “all-national” newspaper of Russia. The newspaper was owned by a vast holding company of Vladimir Potanin which had close ties with the government.[4] A controlling stake in Izvestia was purchased by state-owned Gazprom on 3 June 2005, and included in the Gazprom Media holding.[4] According to the allegations of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Raf Shakirov, editor-in-chief of Izvestia, was forced to resign because the government officials did not like the paper’s coverage of the Beslan school hostage crisis.[5][6] Other sources informed that Potanin had asked him to leave for fear the Kremlin would be riled by the explicit photographs of the massacre published by Izvestia.[4] As of 2005, the circulation of Izvestia was 240,967. Its 2007 circulation certified by TNS Gallup Media was 371,000 copies.[7] Until his death on 1 October 2008, the chief artist was Boris Yefimov, the centenarian illustrator who had worked as Joseph Stalin’s political cartoonist.

    In 2008, Gazprom Media sold Izvestia to National Media Group.[8] The newspaper was relaunched in D2 (broadsheet) format after that and adopted a new slogan (“Making Izvestia [i.e., reports] from the news”), as well as extended simultaneously its business coverage. The paper’s old business section, Finansovye Izvestia (Finance Izvestia), was closed, and Marker Weekly was launched instead in September 2011, distributed with Izvestia on Mondays. The Friday appendix Nedelya (The Week), devoted to culture and leisure activities, was relaunched as well.

  10. I have an MFA niece who writes books, does copy editing and the like. She told me once when I was contemplating writing a book that I would hate my editor since he or she would take the ax to my wording, punctuating, paragraphing etc., so for that and many other reasons I did not write a book. Perhaps it’s just as well, since I tend to be flowery and write paragraph-length sentences loaded with adjectival and adverbial clauses, all of which may tend to obscure the thoughts I am trying to convey while providing a rich trove for the markers of copy editors.
    One would have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to notice what has happened to newsroom personnel and quality reporting over the past several years. Balance, taste and depth have disappeared , along with the personnel that used to provide them. Gannett has swept up the debris (the company has even bought the Naples Daily News here where I live most of the year) and just yesterday there was a piece in that paper announcing an overall reduction of 2% in Gannett’s overall workforce, so it appears that what was already bad is poised to get worse. I am familiar with their tired argument that they must do what they have to do because of the stern competition of the internet and others for the advertising dollar. Its board is clearly listening to Accounting and not its editors, and no one seems to have considered that circulation could increase if quality of reporting improved in an application of what could be called journalistic Keynesianism. Meanwhile, we consumers have to live with third-rate print reporting or resort to the exhortation of merchants and manipulators of opinion on TV. Is there no other quality and affordable news medium on the horizon? If not, then it is simply up to us to try to ferret truth out of what is provided to us short of subscribing to the New York Times, the best newspaper in America.

  11. It’s going on everywhere. I live in Springfield, Ill., whose daily, the State Journal-Register, is one of a growing number of papers gobbled up by the Gate House Media chain. Their cutbacks, similar to what’s described in Indy, are obvious even to the casual reader. The chain has been going broke, yet they continue to buy newspapers, with what I don’t know, and pay huge bonuses to their executives while their staff hasn’t had a raise in years. People leave and aren’t replaced. I know some of their current and former reporters, and they’re giving it everything they’ve got, but under impossible circumstances. If I had the money, I’d form a syndicate and attempt to buy the Journal-Register. Part of me always wanted to be a media mogul. Springfield deserves a good newspaper, but right now what they have is a pallid imitation of one. I really believe it’s one big reason for the ongoing political madness–the watchdogs are toothless.

  12. I apologize for jumping around. But, I feel that I’ve been a little hard on the Nazis.

    This is from “The Trojan Horse in America” by Marin Dies, Jr. [former Head of the House Committee Investigating Un-American Activities] (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1940) pp. 4,7 [from Chapter One-The Whole World Becomes a Modern Troy]:

    “Stalin had called the Seventh World Congress for the sole purpose of making a tactical renovation of the world communist plot. Dimitroff acted as his mouthpiece for the renovating. It was near the end of the second hour of his discourse that Dimitroff used the story of the Trojan Horse to illustrate the strategy which communists were instructed to employ in their campaign for world revolution. “Comrades,” said Dimitroff, “you remember the ancient tale of the capture of Troy. Troy was inaccessible to the armies attacking her, thanks to her impregnable walls. And the attacking army, after suffering many sacrifices, was unable to achieve victory until with the aid of the famous Trojan Horse it managed to penetrate to the very heart of the enemy’s camp.” [ Does it sound familiar?]

    “The picture changes now. We are in Berlin. There is no tumultuous gathering to hear the exposition of the Nazi strategy for world domination. The scene is a private conference between Adolph Hitler and one of his trusted lieutenants. The familiar rasping oratory of the Nazi Fuhrer is absent. He is talking earnestly but in a simple conversation style of how he proposes to open the gates of foreign countries FROM THE INSIDE. It is the Nazi version of the Trojan Horse.” [Does it sound familiar?]

    “Hitler’s sole listener on that occasion was Dr. Hermann Rauschning of Danzig. In great detail, the Nazi dictator outlined his Trojan Horse method to the Danzig Nazi leader. According to Dr. Rausching, Hitler said:
    When I wage war, troops will suddenly appear…they will march through the streets in broad daylight…No one will stop them. Everything has been thought out to the last detail. They will march to the headquarters of the general staff. The conclusion will be beyond belief. But I shall lone have had relations with the men who will form a new government—a government to suit me. I shall find such men; we shall find them in every country. We shall not need to bribe them. They will come of their own accord. Ambition and delusion, party squabbles and self-seeking arrogance will drive them…Our strategy is to destroy the enemy from within, TO CONQUER HIM THROUGH HIMSELF.

    “The Voice of Destruction” by Hermann Rauschning (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1940)

    We quoted Dr. Rausching in our essay at http://www.Democracide.info published over twenty years ago.

    “Patterns don’t lie”

  13. I am surprised that the Indianapolis Star has gotten worse in its editing, as I used to put it squarely at the bottom in that category. They made enough mistakes to keep James J. Kilpatrick in business for a thousand years. Kilpatrick wrote, “The Writer’s Art” for the Atlanta Constitution, and each week he would devote a column to errors found in daily newspapers. He frequently cited the Star.

    Neither Millenials nor Gen-Xers read daily newspapers. They get their news from the internet and they don’t demand more thorough reporting. The Gannett organization committed slow suicide by providing color without content when they first kicked off USA Today. Now that they own papers (I won’t call them NEWSpapers) in most large communities, they are twisting the knife in their own back. They won’t stop.

  14. JoAnn, enjoy your long sleep. Not, a bad idea at all. By the way, according to the Trump campaign literature distributed in Jacksonville, they are going DOOR TO DOOR to convince potential voters for their vote. Not a bad idea either. [Let’s just play one WHITE neighbor against his next door WHITE neighbor. And they can all attend the “City-Wide Rally” sponsored by the First Baptist Church on November 6. This should work. It’s the same plan we executed so well to insure George Bush’s second term in 2004.]

  15. Marv; I am of course receiving local political campaign literature in the mail. The only door-to-door person I have seen was campaigning for a district candidate to improve Indianapolis Public Schools…no political affiliation or information exactly how he intends to improve IPS. In other words; no mention of IPS needing improvement due to failing Charter schools and having the most voucher students in the U.S.A. which are eating up our public education funds.

    I have also noticed that the state level candidates for the Democratic party designate their party on the flyer; I can only assume those who list no affiliation must be the Republicans. As with the Indianapolis Star, et al, poor copyediting.

    Today I am distracted by a second appointment by the company who inspected my furnace yesterday; I listened carefully to the possibility that my old furnace may not be safe, hence the return visit today. I will listen to them but…lost all faith when he quoted a price of $314 for a thermostat. I am old; I am not senile but let that pass for the time being. As if Trump’s lies isn’t enough to deal with; I must not go to sleep till I resolve my furnace problems…IF there are any. My friend and handyman will come later to look at their quote and check the furnace before I make any decision – other than NOT to get a new thermostat. Sigh; sometimes I get so tired!

  16. JoAnn,

    “Marv; I am of course receiving local political campaign literature in the mail. The only door-to-door person I have seen was campaigning for a district candidate to improve Indianapolis Public Schools.”

    Florida has been a pivotal state in the past. Jacksonville is a totally controlled Republican environment. It’s that way because of The Florida Times-Union. All the other media tow the line, even the alternate newspaper, “Folio.”

    Trump supporters don’t need to go into every neighborhood. Certain neighborhoods because of both their demogaphics and psychographics can be very fruitful especially if they contain significant independent voters as well as Clinton supporters. This approach doesn’t have to be limited to Jacksonville.

  17. Concerning the Star article, it is a coincidence that I am planning to stop my subscription today. I agree with you on every point you have made, and I am nostalgic for the excellent paper (s) I knew as a child that cost 2 cents a copy for the daily!

    I, too, was an English/journalism teacher, who had tremendous respect for the field of journalism and am beyond words to express what has happened to every aspect of it.

  18. Corporatism in my book is just another name for “slow motion fascism.” Consequently, SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER is not enough. JoAnn has the right idea since she’s the smartest of all of us. [Is there anyone who doubts that?] She’s going to enjoy the next 10 days by taking a long rest.

    In present day America, you have to FIRST, physically, STAND UP TO POWER, then words can mean something. If not, save your breath. And listen to JoAnn.

    POWER=KOCH BROTHERS ET AL

  19. By the way, back in the late 60’s, I was accepted into “The Club.” That was before the Koch Brothers, but not their father. My best friend told me back then to tell them,”to shove it.” Like a FOOL, I listened to him. Best advice, I have ever received, despite even the consequences.

  20. Copied and pasted from the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) website — “We, representatives of nonprofit news organizations, gather at a time when investigative reporting, so crucial to a functioning democracy, is under threat. There is an urgent need to nourish and sustain the emerging investigative journalism ecosystem to better serve the public.”
    — The Pocantico Declaration, 2009

    At present, there are approximately 100 nonprofit media outlets that are members of INN; however, there are no members in Indiana. I became interested in INN after reading some really fine investigative reporting from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.
    http://kycir.org/

  21. I was like wise confused about the voter fraud articles. A lot of words, but a completely disconnected thought process.

    When we moved to Indianapolis in the mid 1970’s from Chicago area I was amazed at how docile the local press was – including print, radio and TV compared to Chicago. The politics was equally docile. My wife would ask me why I went out on Sundays to buy the Chicago Tribune – I said to find out what is going on in the world. The local media seemed to have the attitude if it is not happening in Central Indiana then it is not happening.

    The Politicians aided and abetted by the “Press” wanted to project this image that everything was OK in the Hoosier State. Political corruption stopped at our borders. It reminded me of what life must have been like in the Soviet Union when Pravda told the Soviet people how good they have it.

    The bright spot was Harrison Ullman when he was with Nuvo.

    I cancelled our Star Subscription several years ago when the Star had this huge article in the Sunday paper on exorcism. The Star nearly everyday is sports, sports, sports, and some article on the newest bar opening up. You do not need copy editors when the content of the paper is little better than, See Spot run. Spot can run.

  22. A limitation of capitalism is that you only get what you pay for.

    Presently nobody has figured out a way to make discovering, describing and disseminating local news profitable.

    It is on the national front but only by making it entertaining.

    On the world front it has become profitable as fear mongering.

    Most don’t really want news.

  23. BSH,

    “This one’s for you. Florida Center for Investigative Reporting at http://fcir.org/

    Thanks for the link. It can help me differentiate myself from them. I’m not an INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER. I’ve failed to make that clear. That’s why they won’t work with me. They’re part of the old status quo system, just like Hillary Clinton. I’ve been down that road many times. The threat from Donald Trump and his movement is that they’re coming from outside the system. Even Hillary Clinton, who is the consummate insider, acknowledged that fact for the first time a few days ago when she said, I believe her words were, “DEMOCRACY IS UNDER ATTACK.”

    For the last 45 years, I’ve acted as an NGO intelligence platform tracking the Far Right, in order to plug the GAP in the pro-democracy defense line caused by the disastrous partnership of the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center. You might want to take another look at http://www.KillingtheMessenger.info where I specifically set out the problem.

    Because of your knowledge of football, you should understand, I’ve been forced to play the role of both a STRONG SAFETY and a FREE SAFETY. It’s getting close, but so far no one has scored a touchdown on me, at least not yet. But you better believe, it’s getting close. It’s first and goal. They will try to score and run out the clock. As an extremely keen observer, you’re 100% right. I can’t stop them this time by myself. So today, I have no other choice than to fully activate http://www.StandUpToPower.org.

  24. Louie; if you cancelled the Star years ago you missed the mass confusion of the changeover to Gannett ownership; then further changes when Gannett bought USA Today and began including a daily sample Reader’s Digest version of that publication. Moving sections around, dropping some local reporting (that is worse today), Section One coming in two parts, charging for TV Week, the TV channel listings (many incorrect regarding content and time). The absolute worst was when obituaries were published in the Sports Section. Only happened once but that was enough. During football season there is frequently a Colts Section and the Sports Section which also includes Colts info; big wins – or losses – are front page news. Yee Haw!

  25. I could not pass this up. It’s the retired high school English teacher in me. Copy editor is a hard role to overcome. I won’t even go near all the punctuation errors which occur daily in the replies. I will just suffer in silence. No harm intended here or anywhere else.

    Sheila: “As a former High School English teacher, these errors affected me like nails on a blackboard.”

    Better: As a former high school English teacher, I am affected by these errors like nails on a blackboard.

    It’s OK, really! We just cannot pass up this stuff. 😉

  26. Betty,

    “I won’t even go near all the punctuation errors which occur daily in the replies. I will just suffer in silence.”

    O.K, I’ll order the book on punctuation you recommended to me. Should I send you the bill?

  27. Marv: The Harbrace Handbook is/was the guide back in the day. Updated versions exist. Try Amazon. No, don’t send me the bill. You are by far NOT the worst offender. You write well and your punctuation is fine.

    Pat: I could never “red-pencil” my own hometown paper enough either. I couldn’t even get to the bottom of the front page without its looking rather bloody. And those folks (at the paper) supposedly do that for a living. Unbelievable!

  28. Could I get work giving copy editors practice?

    My sister and I have divided the world. I got numbers and she, words.

  29. I have not been able to locate this story anywhere else, but Fox59 reported a few days ago that Marion county may not have voting results reported the evening of the election. Apparently, there was a state law passed in 2013 that required Marion County ballots to be counted in one location because voter fraud. Consequently, they don’t have enough volunteers to count in a timely fashion. Apparently, Marion county is a wasp nest of fraudulent voters.
    Here’s the link:
    http://fox59.com/2016/10/24/marion-county-clerk-we-may-not-have-the-results-back-on-election-night/

  30. well, I find Ogden on Politics blog a usable substitute for much of what the local paper SHOULD do. Of course, he also writes about national and totally political items, but if you focus on the local stuff he is the de facto city desk. I just don’t know how he gets by financially since the blog is free.

  31. Betty,

    Thanks. You pointed me in the right direction. Just before ordering The Harcourt Handbook, I remembered that I had a program: Gramarlogues, which I had purchased a few years ago. And It has a separate punctuation section. Thanks again for the inspiration; I needed a little.

  32. Just finished decorating for Christmas this year. Seriously, I plan to celebrate a little early. Today is the first day; November 8th is my twelveth day. And Donald Trump, as I have been saying from the beginning, is my Santa Claus. Please forgive me for my metaphoric, motivational mindset.

  33. Justin Mack with the IndyStar is a genuine reporter. I don’t know if you two are acquainted; I wish that you were.

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