Friday, August 07, 2009

This Is Just Sad

I don't know how Star political columnist Matt Tully could have any respect for himself after dishing up today one of the lamest in a long string of less-than-average columns he's churns out weekly at the newspaper. His colleague, Dan Lee, had no trouble finding fault in the one-sided referendum question the Health & Hospital Corporation certified for this November on whether to construct a new $750 million hospital to replace Wishard that so patently failed to inform voters of the most pertinent facts behind the question. Unlike Lee, Matt, likes to think he's best friends with Indy's elites and wants to make his job as easy as possible so they will continue spoon-feeding him their latest propaganda so he never has to break a sweat to crank out a column. That's the only plausible explanation for this kind of talk from him today:

When I first saw the text of the Wishard Memorial Hospital ballot question -- the one that will determine the fate of a new $754 million complex -- I was bothered.

It seemed slanted, and written in a way that essentially guarantees it will pass on Nov. 3. Separate from the debate of the project's merits, I questioned the question itself, and worried that it lacked the neutrality expected from a referendum.

But the wording, while imperfect, accurately sums up the role Wishard plays in Marion County. As Matthew Gutwein, head of Marion County's Health and Hospital Corp., which runs Wishard, said: "Just because a project sounds like a good idea doesn't mean the question is biased."

He's right.

After all, as the question says, the project would allow the hospital to "provide access to care for all residents of Marion County, including people who are seniors, poor, uninsured or vulnerable, regardless of their ability to pay." . . .

Critics argue the question has been written in a way that too favorably defines the project. Their complaints are not out of line. And there is validity to the argument that the overall cost of the project should be included in the question. That seems like a bottom-line detail.

Gutwein argued that there is another side to the financial issue. The question also leaves out one of the best arguments for the project -- that it will not increase property taxes. If the goal was a slanted question, he said, that would have been included.

Again, he's right.

House Minority Leader Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, supports the project. He said advocates should have included more financial detail in the question, but he doesn't intend to spend much time quibbling over it.

Neither will I.
Tully then goes on to offer three reasons why it's okay to misrepresent the question to voters: 1) It meets the technical requirement of the law state lawmakers inserted into the state budget at the last minute without any public debate; (2) it's written in plain English; and (3) voters will be informed because they won't have any other decisions like, who is the best candidate, to ponder when they go out to vote in the costly special election. By that sound logic, can we expect a future column from Tully saying something like, "Yeah, I know it was wrong for that guy to hold up a bank at gunpoint, but he only did it so he could pay the hospital bills of his dying mother so there's really no harm done here."

When the state's largest newspaper's political columnist dishes up drivel like this, his bosses at Gannett should not be surprised that long-time subscribers are cancelling their subscriptions. Great political columnist likes Chicago's Mike Royko and Washington's Jack Anderson were so popular with their readers because they knew they were on their side and didn't care what the politicians and insider elites thought of them. Royko wrote five columns a week for nearly a quarter of a century? How many columns does Tully write a week? Being popular with those folks, Matt, isn't going to save your job at the end of the day. Think about it.


Downtown Indy said...

When I heard Tully and O'Shaughnessy on WIBC the other day (Brenden's final day with the Star), it was clear to me that there's an oppressive force bearing down on Star reports and making them hold their tongues.

Brendan noted that because it was his last day, he could be candid - and boy was he. Brutally so in assessing the mayor's fumbles, errors and failures. We don't get that kind of information in print.

The Star is part of the insider organization that runs this city. It disseminates PR instead of monitoring and reporting.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

"The Star is part of the insider organization that runs this city. It disseminates PR instead of monitoring and reporting."

You must be another one of those "right-wing, bible-totin', hateful,elderly,rightist,Nazi,Dittohead, racist, swastika-bearing GOP thugs" that Nancy Pelosi and Obama want you to report to

Doug said...

I remember when I wrote an opinion column for my high school newspaper, I told my Dad that I wanted to write like Mike Royko.

I don't think I necessarily succeeded to any appreciable degree, but I think my Dad was impressed that his snot-nosed teenager had zeroed in on Royko as a model.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Wow, DI, I so wish I could have heard that.

indyernie said...

Brenden is no special loss and I'll buy Tully a bus ticket out of town whenever he is ready to go.