Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Star Ignores Own Past Reporting In Waltz Residency Dispute

The archives from the Star provide a treasure trove of information. What has always confounded me is how time after time the Star's reporters ignore their newspapers own past reporting in covering a particular subject matter, often to the detriment of providing more accurate reporting for its readers. The debate over whether Sen. Brent Waltz actually resides in his district is a perfect case and point. In a story today by Jason Thomas, Waltz is quoted as saying the following:

Waltz said the condo has been his official residence since 2003 and is the address listed on his driver's license, gun permit, passport and tax filings.

"I have never been questioned at all during this time," he said. "The threshold for the law is very, very low. It's not where you spend most of your time, because if it was, I'd probably be living in my car."

Waltz said he occasionally spends the night at the Downtown Columbia Club after a late legislative session, and that he stayed at his parents' home on Hunters Ridge Lane southwest of Greenwood -- which is outside his district -- on five occasions when they were in Florida.

"I don't spend a lot of time at home," Waltz said. "When I am home, I spend most of my time asleep. The matter is before the Election Commission, and I will be able to demonstrate conclusively that my home is my home."

Waltz declined to show his condominium publicly. "If it gets to that point, I'll be supplying photographic evidence of my condo," he said.

Waltz' assertion that he has never been questioned about his residency is simply untrue. As the Star's own Andy Gamill reported on May 9, 2004, his 2004 opponent, Sen. Larry Borst, raised the issue. Gammill wrote then:

Waltz decided to run 18 months ago, moving from his parents' home just outside the 36th Senate District into downtown Greenwood, solidly within the district. He then started the process to purchase a condominium.

Although Borst and his supporters have questioned the legitimacy of his residency, Waltz said he planned carefully to ensure he was playing strictly within the rules.

An Advance Indiana reader posted this quote from the Star archives yesterday. Either the Star makes it as difficult for its own reporters to get at the newspaper's archives, or its reporters simply don't bother checking them. Either way, the Star's readers are shortchanged.


Anonymous said...

Waltz seems to be a pathological liar.

Wouldn't it be nice if the Star could lift just a couple of fingers to point that out.

Did these reporters even go to journalism school? There was a time when reporters were giddy to handle this kind of story.

Anonymous said...

I'm convinced The Star reporters, for the most part, are prisoners of time, arrogance and laziness, or a mixture of all three. And sometimes they're at an event in person, physically, but just not paying attention.

Mary Beth Schneider, for instance, reports in this morning's edition about Rep. Greg Porter's comments at the Statehouse rally yesterday.

I was there, too. Porter was introduced as a champion of hate crimes legislation, and his comments were framed entirely in that context.

Schneider reported one or two sentences (who knows if she was given limited space, or edited down, but that's another story). Her reporting framed all of Porter's coments in the SJR7 context.

The hundreds of thousands of Star readers who weren't there don't know that. THey'd assume from today's article that Porter wants to lead the anti-SJR7 charge up San Juan Hill. He does not.

It may appear to be a subtle difference, but I also know Rep. Porter is not as comfortable with SJR7 opponents as we'd like him to be. He's probably 51% with us...

He's 200% on board with hate crimes legislation. He is the author and champion of that legislation, but it's not the same context as SJR7. Alliances are built for and against legislation based on delicate wording and nuance.

Mixing the two is a simple reporting error, but it could have profound public policy impact. If Rep. Porter's phone lines light up with SJR7 opponents from his district, for instance, it could have a disasterous effect.

Which is why it's improtant to get it right, get it quickly and get it in context.

Schneider knows that. She used to be much more proficient and an excellent writer. She's fallen into Tully's trap: punch it out quickly, move on...think little, move fast.

It is, quite simply, dangerous journalism.

Quite in vogue at The Star. Sad but true.

Gary R. Welsh said...

Thanks for sharing that, anon 11:57. I wondered the same thing when I read that article. I assumed he was there to speak about his efforts on the hate crimes bill.

Anonymous said...

11:57 said:

She's fallen into Tully's trap: punch it out quickly, move on...think little, move fast.

This is by no means a Tullyism, rather it's SOP for reporters working for Gannett newspapers. You have to crank out your copy fast so you can move on to the next 10-incher with no depth. Been there, done that.

Anonymous said...

Even the reporters at the Red Star Rag know how piddley poor the other reporters are. That's why they don't bother to check!

Anonymous said...

1:57--I know and feel your pain.

But I know reporters at other Gannett operations. It isn't always like this.

The local reporters, and their Guild, ahve rolled over like cheap tricks.

We lose.


And I was spoon-fed Pulliam nonsense for four plus decades. It's not much better, to be honest, which is why, at national journalism conventions, it wasn't rare to hear:

"Oh you're from Indianapolis? The only major American city without a daily newspaper."