Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Star Reporter's Hiring By Carmel Mayor Part Of A Disturbing Trend

When I worked for the Illinois legislature before moving to Indianapolis to attend law school, I noticed a disturbing trend of State House reporters leaving their jobs to take jobs in state government. After I moved to Indianapolis, I observed the same thing happening with increased frequency here in Indiana. So I suppose it should come as no surprise to read in the latest edition of the IBJ that Carmel's controversial mayor, James Brainard, hired Dan McFeely, an Indianapolis Star reporter assigned the job of covering the northern suburbs, as an economic development consultant earning up to $99,000 a year. The IBJ's Chris O'Malley observes that a story written by McFeely prior to his hiring, "25 things I love about Carmel," was featured prominently on the City of Carmel's website for months.

At least one Carmel city council member, Lucy Snyder, is questioning the wisdom of adding yet another consultant to the list of 17 economic development consultants being paid by the city, who collectively are paid more than $800,000 annually. In addition to the numerous consultants, Carmel employs four full-time employees and two part-timers for economic development work, including Nancy Heck, the city's director of communications and economic development. O'Malley describes the first invoice McFeely submitted in November only days after leaving his job with the Star in which he invoiced $2,750 for his services to promote economic development opportunities in Carmel via Twitter and Facebook, and to write press releases about road projects and bond sales. Isn't that Heck's job?

McFeely has absolutely no background in economic development, a fact picked up on by Snyder. He "isn't an economic development person," Snyder told O'Malley. According to O'Malley, he studied theology at Marian University and earned an ecclesiastical lay ministry degree from St. Joseph's College. Since 2007, he's headed an adult ministry program for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, in addition to working as a reporter for the Star. Heck tells O'Malley that the city sought no proposals from potential consultants before hiring McFeely. "Dan was our pick," she said. "He's covered Carmel for several years, so we are familiar with his work and the quality of his work."

I'm wondering if McFeely had actually performed any in-depth investigative reporting of the many questionable things taking place in Brainard's administration while working for the Star if he would have been offered such a lucrative contract. Increasingly, news reporters seem to do little more than act as mouthpieces for the people in government and elsewhere who they are supposed to be objectively covering for their audience. Former Washington Post editor Philip Graham once told a CIA operative that "You could get a journalist cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a month." Former CIA Director William Colby once boasted that his agency "owns everyone of any significance in the major media." It looks like it's not only the CIA that owns the media we rely upon for objective news coverage.


Flogger said...

Press Release "Journalism" is the name for it. After a column a couple days that criticized the snow removal in Indianapolis, Erica Smith now writes a gushing column concerning the Snow Removal in Indianapolis. A guess as long as the street in front of her home is plowed, by inference the rest of the City streets are plowed.

She relies in her column by statements from Ballard, and Lori Miser, director of the Department of Public Works that the City performed it task of clearing the snow. She does not mention if she actually drove around the City to verify the Story or the claims by the City.

Last Thursday's was the worst job I ever saw of snow removal. I drove from the NW Side of Indy out to Avon, and did not see one snow removal truck on the Interstate or Marion County Streets. I simply could not believe this was a "World Class City."

rls46032 said...

Ironic the Mayor is on record one year earlier stating that 'local talent' wasn't a good value.