Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pacers Executives Get Tour Of Star's New Digs: What Does It Tell Us?

Publisher Karen Ferguson, center, leads a tour for
Jim Morris, Rick Fuson and Karen Ferguson (left to right) touring Star's new offices (Kelly Wilkinson/Star Photo)
Former Indianapolis Star columnist Ruth Holladay asks why the newspaper felt obliged to share with its readers a collection of photos showing the Star's senior management providing a special tour of the newspaper's new digs in Circle Center Mall to the Pacers' senior management, noting that Publisher Karen Ferguson tweeted earlier this month that it only took her 30 seconds to walk from her new office to Banker's Life Fieldhouse where the Pacers play. And? What were they thinking? Or better yet, how did they think us ordinary folks would react?

Gannett inherited a conflict of interest with all matters concerning the Simon-owned Pacers when it purchased the Star because of a prior investment the Pulliam-run newspaper chain had invested in the Simon-owned Circle Center Mall, a debt repayment the newspaper has agreed to defer on several occasions because of some later co-mingled financing of the construction of Banker's Life Fieldhouse by the CIB. The Star, of course, has been very outspoken in using its news and editorial pages to speak in favor of the $200 plus million in public subsidies authorized by the CIB for payment to the Pacers. What, if any, special rent concession the Gannett-owned Star received for services rendered is left to something upon which we can only speculate.

As Holladay explains, the conflict in news coverage of the Pacers is further complicated because of a romantic relationship Holladay says has blossomed between Ms. Ferguson and Pacers Sports & Entertainment's president, Rick Fuson. Holladay writes:
Who really cares if Gannett's Indy Star publisher Karen Ferguson and the Pacers' president Rick Fuson are an item?
Rumors began to float more than a month ago that the former Karen Crotchfelt was going through a divorce -- and (afterthought)  was romantically involved with Fuson, who was named president for the Pacers organization at the end of September. Fuson is also divorced. 
None of my business, really. 
Except in how Pacers' coverage might play out on the Star's sports pages. Or, since sports is big business, elsewhere in the newspaper . . .
Amusement may turn more reflective if conflict of interest issues arise. Others have point out that, in the past, the newspaper has had problems with reporters who may be a bit too close to sources.
And I personally find it off-putting when the newspaper turns itself into a pimp for any sort of merry-making. Better to stick with the basics--report the damn news.
But for now, let sleeping publishers and Pacers' brass lie . . .
Online court records confirm that Ferguson filed for divorce in Hamilton Co. in April. She was represented by the law firm of Bingham Greenebaum Doll, the same law firm that serves as general counsel for the CIB, which, in theory, owns Banker's Life Fieldhouse where the Pacers play for free and get to keep all of the revenues and then some. Ferguson's divorce became final on August 15. Fuson became Pacers Sports & Entertainment president a couple of weeks later when Jim "Rent-A-Civic Leader" Morris was asked to step aside. Ponder it all the next time the Star writes an editorial, publishes a column or news story absent any semblance of objectivity concerning the massive public subsidies for the Pacers while denying its readers any dissenting viewpoints on the matter.


Anonymous said...

"Better to stick with the basics--report the damn news."

Wrong, Ruth. In the newspaper business, the first basic is to dig up the news. Second is to report it.

Nobody in the Indy media has a shovel; they all simply repackage AP reports and local press releases.

Anonymous said...

Does this mean that Gannett is controlled by the Simon family?

-They are their landlord, and it appears pretty clear the point is made by mentioning the distance to our Fieldhouse where The Simon's team plays its games.

Flogger said...

In keeping with the "Fairness Doctrine" (A Reporting Doctrine of equal fluff and puff for the Pacers and Colts) at The Star, we have Gregg Doyel: Discovering Jim Irsay's private side — a heart of gold in The Star.

Left unsaid as usual is the Billions of Tax Dollars the CIB has diverted into the Pockets of the Pacers and Colts.

Gary R. Welsh said...

You'll have to go over to ESPN, of all places, to read hard-hitting reporting on the Shadow Life of Jim Irsay.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't use that 'ole rag to start a fire, even if I were freezing to death. As Anonymous notes, it's nothing more than repackaged stories - full of grammtical errors, I might add.

The local reporters like to spend their time on superficial stories - like were to eat, or which new civic theatre to visit. Also, these weekly segments showcasing multi-million dollar homes for sale turns my stomach. Really? This is not the realm of newspapers, especially good ones!