MUNCIE, Indiana – When we first read about Judge Dianna Bennington in Indiana newspapers and her recent suspension with pay by the Supreme Court, we had a flashback of personal encounters with Dianna Bennington, then Judge William Bruns, the Delaware County Prosecutor and Gannett’s political reporting duo of Doug Walker and Keith Roysdon, around three years ago while running for political office.
At the time, we had a Mitch Daniels appointed republican judge tossed into the psych ward by his family member while he was running for reelection as the city judge. His commitment paper got faxed to the courthouse by a hospital employee which then got instantly faxed to every fax machine in Muncie. The republican was obviously embarrassed and tried to pin it on me because of a comment I made online at The StarPress. My comment did look suspicious since I was working at Meridian Healthcare Services at the time. Walker and Roysdon were contacted by Judge Bruns campaign manager, Brandon Murphy, who tried to connect me to Dianna Bennington, another candidate running for office as a democrat in Muncie, Indiana.
The two reporters carefully chose every word to make me look guilty. They also knew tampering of medical records would be discovered immediately, yet they didn’t wait until verification. The story was way too juicy, so they printed it on Sunday – headlines sell newspapers.
The problem is it was a lie concocted by someone within the republican party trying to save face and the newspaper printed the story not caring about the trouble it caused for people. There is a journalist’s creed of “Do No Harm”, but it’s been long ignored in order to make a profit.
It’s called “yellow journalism, or “journalism that is based on sensationalism and crude exaggeration”. Walker and Roysdon didn’t care whether they exaggerated details – it was a democrat and it would sell newspapers, so they printed it.
So obviously our second thought was, “Who’s behind the investigation of judicial misconduct?”, or “Who benefits from Dianne looking bad?”, and even, “Is this truly a story or is this about selling newspapers?”
Unfortunately, as the country is taking on racial prejudice after the cases in Ferguson, Missouri and New York, along with this weekends assassination of two NYPD officer’s, our local case has begun to hit the national news because of the keywords, “racial slur“.
We doubt the local boys and girls at the The StarPress intended for it to hit the big time with their usual exploitive embellishments and half-truths, but it’s happened, nonetheless. What will the national media think about Gannett’s two reporters when they discover the truth?
The racial slur wasn’t the result of a white supremacist or power-hungry judge, but was an unofficially recorded expletive toward an ex-lover – the African-American father of her two 18 month twin boys. An expletive said in anger toward someone who was a perceived threat to herself or her children.
According to one of Walker and Roysdon’s articles:
Word of the slur — and yes, the allegation is it was that word — began to circulate within days of that Sept. 21 incident. Chief Deputy Walker had recorded the confrontation without the judge’s knowledge. The recording would eventually make its way to the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications, which was already investigating unrelated allegations against Bennington.
As the Judge knows, we take a harsh line against any sort of racial slurs by white officials, even made during angry bouts with ex-lovers or against dad’s friends. However, there is a difference between a racist judge who has a long list of abuses in their case records against minorities versus an emotionally charged bout of anger when her kids safety is involved.
In this case, the reporters knew they were exaggerating claims by writing, “Her friends will try to dismiss her racial slur…”, but we’ve had little to no contact with the judge since she was elected, so we’re not defending her, we’re pointing out to our readers, The StarPress’s typical bias and use of sensationalism to invoke a specific perception from readers – it’s called yellow journalism.
Nearly every article we have read (especially outside of Indiana) glosses over the fact the expletive was lobbed at the African-American father of her two children and/or his friends, who happen to be African-American. It also ignores the father is a high-ranking official within the Sheriff’s department and recorded her conversations in a private matter, but then handed off the recording to “somebody” who sent it to the judicial review committee.
From what the articles share, this high-ranking law enforcement officer supposedly recorded her argument and is now using them against the mother of his children. Sounds like a domestic dispute rather than a case of judicial indiscretion on the bench.
While Muncie grabs some negative attention today, we wonder how this will play out in the coming weeks. We know how our scenario played out – no retraction and no letters written by the employer to defend the employee and communicate to the public that the matter was improperly handled within the courthouse, and nowhere else.
Yes folks, Indiana has huge problems with racism and sexism, and many other ‘isms. However, we don’t think the suspension against Judge Bennington is one of them. It will be interesting to see how the truth gets deciphered amidst the headline grabbing titles. Until then, it sure feels like someone has an ulterior motive of making sure the democratic judge isn’t re-elected in 2016.
The question is, “Will the local newspaper be more interested in selling papers than finding the truth?”
Our local newspaper is very well-known for being used by local groups to smear people wittingly or unwittingly to further an agenda. The local reporters are all too happy to be used as accomplices if it will also sell newspapers. The StarPress isn’t the free and independent source of journalism our constitutional framers had in mind when they established certain press freedoms and protections.
Our daily lives are being negatively impacted by political influencers like Charles and David Koch, the American Legislative and Exchange Council and the Indiana Policy Review. None of which are mentioned by “government reporters” with The StarPress.
In Middletown USA, gone are the days we read our local newspaper to be informed. Gone are the days we look to our government reporters for real investigative journalism highlighting corruption and collusion with monied interests creating policies which coddles a few at the expense of the majority.
For instance, are education reform and NAFTA connected? You know, two major policy decisions which have negatively impacted everyone in East Central Indiana. They are connected by the surname Bush. Do we read about that in our local paper? Not a chance.
As long as Gannett remains in our community to selectively collect and report news and information for profit, we’ll be stuck with biased reporting along with the motto of all yellow journalists – “If it bleeds, it leads”.