Newspapermen and women can be relied upon to down a few shots of Old Self Righteous, and then remind the remainder of us on the “outside” about the absolutely vital and valiant role their publications play in holding influential interests accountable to the people, whether these are governments, oligarchs or any other human contrivance that finds secrecy helpful in perpetuating connivance and preserving power.
But if you’re looking for some really cheap laughs, lay off the hootch and ask the newspaper itself to be accountable to its own purported mission of accountability. You’ll notice the walls against scrutiny going up faster than you can say “Look, is that investigative journalism’s corpse floating over there in Silver Creek?”
To me, it’s not at all an unreasonable question to ask: How many reporter salaries are made possible by municipal advertising purchases?
I raised this and a few other points in a letter to the News and Tribune, and someone — the editor, the publisher, or maybe the guy delivering sandwiches from Jimmy Johns — couldn’t help but append a visibly annoyed answer, seeking to attack me as a hypocrite while predictably refusing to address my concerns.
This is displacement and evasion, and rhetorical weakness of this degree probably isn’t deserving of comment, but because I’m transparent, here goes: I no longer own a business, but when I did, I’d have had absolutely no issue whatever with releasing our financial records, because there wasn’t anything in them to hide. In fact, we always thought it would be quite informative for folks to see just how much money we weren’t making in the food and drink business.
Of course the newspaper’s situation is far different. We claimed only to be serving food and drink. The newspaper depicts itself in heroic terms, willing at the drop of a hat to stress its own critical importance as a quasi-ombudsman (supposedly) comforting the afflicted and affilcting the comfortable.
Neither will that dog hunt, nor is the escape clause to avoid self-accountability convincing: “Wait, we’re a private, for-profit, non-locally-owned business, and you’ll receive no answers from us.”
Given the amount of ads run by New Albany and Jeffersonville alone, both from classified placements that cities are compelled to make (the rates for which ALL newspapers continue to raise extortionately) and the discretionary self-glorification memes preferred by Jeff Gahan and Mike Moore (read: political ads in all except the fudged invoice descriptions), this money is a potential conflict of interest, plain and simple.
Deflect all you wish, Susan, Bill and the gang. The light’s pointed at you, not me.
Mike Moore kicked off the year in a blatant fit of sheer greed, and it wasn’t very pretty.
The Jeffersonville mayor’s inelegantly stage-managed bid for a 30 percent raise was so egregious that even our local chain newspaper took note, and rightly mounted the soapbox in protest.
Naturally, later this year at the annual shill ceremony concocted by its corporate master, the News and Tribune will win an award for best coverage of municipal events occurring just outside the office door, before adjourning to attend mocktail party for Alabama pensioners.
Just as predictably, in New Albany our City Hall expended six full months in a coordinated effort to rebuff “sunshine law” public information requests before being called on the carpet and fined by a judge.
Nope, not a peep from the principled editorial team at the News and Tribune.
It’s worth repeating that one of the information requests spurned by New Albany’s spigot-smothering city functionaries sought clarity about the amount of money spent each year by City Hall via its contract with ProMedia for purely discretionary advertisements, often thinly-veiled mayoral campaign ads, with this money flowing to places exactly like the News and Tribune.
Not one of the three links in this chain of taxpayer cash — city, contractor or newspaper — will tell us the answer to a simple question: Exactly how much money is involved?
Where’s the transparency in this situation, exalted newspaper editorialists?
Thankfully one of these links, city government, is subject to Indiana state law pertaining to the necessity of honoring information requests, and yet instead of obeying the law, it threw a tantrum and delayed compliance until after the election, and only when forced to do so by the judiciary.
If the newspaper won’t call out this sort of behavior, who will?
— ROGER A. BAYLOR
EDITOR’S NOTE: There is no statute of limitations on encouraging office holders to be transparent in their dealings, including allowing access to public records. New Albany erred and was compelled by a judge to provide the requested records. We are encouraged that city officials — finally — did the right thing and urge them to comply with records requests more expediently in the future. Their misstep will no doubt be fodder for future editorials dealing with transparency in government.
We aren’t aware of any business, though — including yours, Mr. Baylor — that opens its financial records to the public. We do not discriminate against people or entities — including cities and politicians — who want to advertise with us.