I’m not sure yet, but it seems to me that the new editor of our local paper The Herald-Times, “PART OF THE USA TODAY NETWORK” actually wants controversy. Unlike previous editors, who seem to have switched out on just about a yearly basis lately. This altered focus makes reading the newspaper more “exciting,” yes. And of course, it helps sell actual printed newspapers, and so attract advertising, in this more and more post-newspaper era when most of us get our “news” online.
I knew that our local paper was owned by Gannett, but did not realize that Gannett had acquired USA Today. And, as of 2019, the entire enterprise was sold to GateHouse Media, to become “the largest U.S. newspaper company by far.”
Since that time, the editor has changed hands at least once. Each new editor brings a subtly altered perspective, his or her own lens through which to view and value the world. And the more powerful the editor’s vision, the more the entire newspaper reflects it.
My interest in local news, and how it’s produced, who produces it, the relationship between the “news” and its advertisers, goes back decades, to the time when I was married for nearly three years to my old high school boyfriend, at that time the editor of the newspaper in our home town, Twin Falls, Idaho.
I remember speaking with Dick about the way the news is always slanted to feature “bad news,” attacks, murders, personal and institutional corruption, robberies, etc. What about good news? I asked him. Why can’t the newspaper give at least equal play to what’s right about the world. We know that there’s much more good news than bad news, if we learn to look for it. But from a “bottom line” economic perspective, he was right: bad news sells papers.
Even so, I managed to get a column, “Coming Back Home,” into that newspaper after our marriage was completed that ran for several months and caused so much of an uproar that the publisher (who appreciated me) told me that the newsroom couldn’t talk about anything else, plus he kept getting so many calls to “shut her up” that he couldn’t get any work done! So that was that.
I will be featuring that series of six columns as part of my Recapitulation Project, a vast and unwieldy determination to archive just about my entire written corpus, starting with my doctoral dissertation and the philosophy department uproar it ignited at Boston University, within the next several months on the Tendre Press website.
Here, in Bloomington, Indiana, I’ve had a checkered history regarding items I’ve sent in to the paper, both opinion pieces and letters to the editor. Most of them have gotten into print though, in at least one case, it was published so far past the heat of the controversy I was addressing that it had lost relevance. Another one, a letter I wrote soon after the Covid Con began spring 2020, that especially focused on the utterly critical distinction between “dying with CV and dying from CV,” the newspaper refused to print!
I wonder if the new editor would have refused to print that letter. Because what I’m noticing (and it may be too early to tell) is that this new editor does seem to want controversy.
Three recent stories illustrate this, the first two I’ve already paid some attention to here on this blog..
First, the vaccine certificate controversy at Indiana University: if you recall, first IU required not only the vax, but proof of the vax, for every person associated with IU — staff, professors, students. Then, a few days later, when public criticism and the state attorney general warned IU off that tack, took back the certificate requirement. I discussed both these stories. Then, yesterday, a new headline, again, top of front page, this time with a large photo.
This is a surprisingly lengthy story. The editor gave the reporter plenty of room. Reading through it (sorry, it’s behind a paywall), I kept wondering just how many people attended this rally. I still don’t know! But it seems that there were many speakers who were pointing out all the absurdities of the Covid Con, with many of them having come here from elsewhere to attend the rally! Hmmm . . . the reporter tried half-heartedly to counter their arguments with the usual palaver, that the science says otherwise, etc. but his defense appeared lame compared to the pointed, inflammatory language of the speakers. This rally was taking place at the Sample Gates (the official entrance to the university), where there’s not really room for a large crowd.
Who knows, might there have been so many speakers that they themselves constituted most of the “crowd?”
The reporter says the rally was organized by “The IU Family for Consent, not Mandates.” I looked up this name as a url. Nothing. Oops! A bit more sleuthing, using a different search engine, I found it as www.families4choice.org. Again, I looked up the name the reporter gave on facebook, and there it is, though the name is actually slightly different: “The IU Family for Choice not Mandates.” This is a private group. It appears very active. I have asked to join.
What interests me most about this first story, two things: 1) that the reporter never estimated the size of the crowd, and 2) that he gave lots of room for speakers’ remarks, all of which basically undermine or contradict what IU is attempting to impose, re: the virus and the vax. Both of which made me immediately suspect that the editor likes conflict, even when gigantic IU, the life blood, the economic engine of this community, is involved. That’s big.
The second piece I’ve also been following. The infamous “military exercise” last Monday night. Today I see this headline, again front page, but much smaller, see left hand corner:
This piece also received an unusually long treatment, continued on page 3, where it was granted a full half page, including these subheads: City ‘did not object’, A reminder from the past, Which is it?, ‘Little sleep was possible,’ and Training concerns abound.
Aside from both the city and the army blaming the other guy while at the same time apologizing for the disturbance (double think? double bind?) — with this dueling duet by far the main thrust of this piece — the reporter also pointed out how these military trainings in civilian areas have a long history. Which makes me wonder: who really, has jurisdiction over our locality? And reminds me of a headline I saw about Maricopa this morning, concerning the US Attorney General wanting to look into the Arizona audit, and being told by Arizona, you do that, and you end up in the Arizona jail. Whew!
Again, who has jurisdiction? This all relates to the question of power: centralized or decentralized; top down or bottom up? It appears that bottom-up is coming alive, expanding. Witness all the moms who are attending school board meetings to object to CRT indoctrination for their kids. YES!
And finally, a third story, this one new: Today’s headline, see above photo, top front page: “TB cases linked to ‘bone repair product,'” with a subtitle that says it all: “Bloomington hospital patient among 20 possible cases in state.”
In case you didn’t know, IU has now swallowed up most of the medical system in this town (and it seems, statewide). The new hospital, due to open soon only about a mile from here, proudly sports the IU Health emblem. See it? on the above left of the largest building.
This “bone product” story is guaranteed to create waves locally. Good. The editor appears to be brave.
However, I still feel it’s important to put locally produced content (I.e., news of various events put on by various groups in town) back in the paper. Come on! It’s OUR TOWN.