Who Looks Worse Post Hiatt Deal – BSU or Gannett?

What Grades Do We Give Gannett and Ball State?

Local resident Chris Hiatt has been sharing his displeasure across social media channels regarding the “cozy relationship” between the StarPress and Ball State University. According to Hiatt, it would seem that the pages of our local newspaper are used as a “public relations department” for Ball State administration.

Apparently Chris hasn’t been reading the Voice over the past 2 years.

Not surprising since Hiatt is the ring leader of “small government group” calling themselves the “Citizens for Good Government Group“, a/k/a East Central Indiana Tea Party. When not printing up orders for customers, Chris is telling anybody who will listen that government is too big. Some would say Chris won’t be happy until there is no government remaining.

Although, when he found himself in a fight against the big bullies from Ball State University who targeted his family business on McKinley for an eminent domain grab, the first group he ran to was the public sector in Indianapolis where fellow Good Government Group member and Senator Doug Eckerty can be found. I guess Chris does like government some times, but only when they can help him.

Unfortunately, Doug carries no weight with the bought and paid for republicans in Indy, so Chris couldn’t stop the bullies from going after his property.

According to Founder Thomas Jefferson, “The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed incorporations.”

Anyway, we’ve been trying to explain to the Muncie community, and to Mr. Hiatt, the Gannett owned StarPress is not a free and independent press as our constitution allows. It does not hold accountable the public and private sectors ensuring a stable democracy by checking the powers of both entities and especially identifying collusive efforts between the two.

Gannett’s newspaper hasn’t been independent for years – their colors bleed bluer and bluer each year. Why would they point out a travesty of monied interests when they are part of the travesty?

Advocates for “media democracy” share, “Corporate ownership and commercial pressures influence media content, sharply limiting the range of news, opinions, and entertainment citizens receive. Consequently, they call for a more equal distribution of economic, social, cultural, and information capital, which would lead to a more informed citizenry, as well as a more enlightened, representative political discourse.”

In the case of the Hiatt family-owned property on McKinley where BSU was seeking to steal the land via eminent domain, the publicity stunt pulled by Ball State administration was due to radio and newspaper attention from independent papers in Muncie – Muncie Voice and Muncie Free Press, whose citizen journalists were covering a local story about a BSU entrepreneur class lead by Professor Susan Clark-Muntean. Her students spent an entire semester studying the Village and were preparing to present their findings to the community. WLBC radio joined the hype and the community was ready to hear the findings.

Ball State administration quickly used that publicity to launch their renderings of “McKinley Commons”, a hotel/hospitality training site. Surprisingly, prior to the article in the StarPress, nobody in the Village had heard anything about this project. In fact, the article made it sound like Village business owners welcomed the project as a bonus to the area.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

What’s worse, the article showed the building on land BSU didn’t even own – a new level of arrogance even for BSU administration.

Can you imagine owning an eatery or coffee shop in the Village and endorsing a building full of restaurants and coffee shops less than a block away owned by an entity that doesn’t embrace anything off-campus?

However, the “staff reporter” at the StarPress endorsed this nonsense, and Editor Lisa Lara-Nellesen published the article. Nobody should be surprised by this, but apparently Chris Hiatt was lulled into thinking The StarPress is fair and balanced like Fox news.

What was funny about the announcement is the entrepreneur students who were interviewing both business owners in the Village and BSU administration personnel all semester never even heard one word about a “hospitality training facility”. You’d think the newspaper reporters would have found this odd since one of them covered the student findings later that day.

What was even more peculiar about the timing of this announcement was staff at the Muncie Voice had been contacted about the downtown Horizon Convention Center hotel training facility, but sources told the Voice that meetings were still being held in private and weren’t to be released to the public.

So, why would Muncie be host to two training sites for the hospitality industry? Hospitality isn’t the most highly paid career track a student can take so we wondered, “Why would BSU want to compete with an Ivy Tech/ARC facility in downtown?”

Another article interviewed a BSU trusteee, “I think in this case it’s the right thing to do for the university, the right to do for the city of Muncie, and in all honesty, I think it’s a good thing for the business owner,” says Frank Hancock, the vice president of the Board of Trustees.

The story gets sillier since after the article ran in the newspaper, the findings from the entrepreneur students research project were unveiled – “Ball State lacks collaboration with the City of Muncie and generally doesn’t work well with the Village or overall community”.

Hardly a revelation, but some people refuse to admit or even accept it – as we know first hand, if you speak against the establishment, they’ll make life hard for you. They are bully’s, like Chris Hiatt and his family learned. It goes better for you if you just “play along” and respect the “pecking order”.

Ultimately,  we learned the student findings were negative toward BSU, but the administration pushed their own agenda on the all too willing Gannett lapdogs. They tried to usurp the media attention already received by their own entrepreneur class’s efforts – shameful.

Therefore, whoever cooked up the public relations stunt with Ball State University administrative offices by stealing publicity from their own student lead projects to reveal a new building project on land not owned by them, gets an A for being well dressed jerks.

Equally earning A’s are the Gannett owned StarPress and Editor & Chief, Lisa Lara-Nellesen for quickly allowing their pages be used for this cheap publicity stunt. Then, nearly one year later using her editorial page to write, “In the end, Ball State made the right move by pulling the plug on the project, but we hope it can return in a form that does not spur as much controversy. But today, we’re glad the dispute is over. Time to move on.”

Well, if Gannett’s Editor says we should “move on”, then we should just overlook how her paper is used every day to promote her own personal agenda over the best interests of the community. We already know she’s unable to make tough decisions on printing articles that should be shared and risk losing high profile connections in Muncie. How can you trust a press that is far from free and independent?

If there’s one thing the Gannett rag is consistent about… its always choosing to side on the entrenched monied interests which pays to fill their pages with over priced advertisements.

Our recommendation to Mr. Hiatt is to step away from his personal feelings  toward “smaller government” and simply assess what goes on within his own community. The local Gannett owned newspaper is one of the most obvious supporters of the plutocracy by rarely criticizing conservative politicians, or policies, and opens up its editorial pages to the writers for Indiana Policy Review who are members of the plutocracy controlled ALEC organization which endorses the Koch brothers pro-corporate lawmaking throughout the country and in Indianapolis, Indiana.

So, Mr. Hiatt you get a D for not knowing who art thou opposition. Don’t feel bad for being fooled. To ease your pain, we share a quote from Wendell Berry, an American man of letters, academic, cultural and economic critic:

We Americans are not usually thought to be a submissive people, but of course we are. Why else would we allow our country to be destroyed? Why else would we be rewarding its destroyers? Why else would we all — by proxies we have given to greedy corporations and corrupt politicians — be participating in its destruction? Most of us are still too sane to piss in our own cistern, but we allow others to do so and we reward them for it. We reward them so well, in fact, that those who piss in our cistern are wealthier than the rest of us. How do we submit?

By not being radical enough. Or by not being thorough enough, which is the same thing.

Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.

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