Tag Archives: IBJ

Rejected, Then Recycled

Well, I see that Notre Dame (the University, not the Cathedral) has hired Paul Ryan, former Speaker of the House. Evidently, Ryan will teach economics–despite the fact that he consistently elevated ideology over evidence and was routinely criticized by actual economists for clinging to long-debunked theories.

Some people resemble that bad penny that inexplicably keeps coming back.

Closer to home, the Indianapolis Business Journal has announced it has added Gary Varvel to its roster.

Over the past years, the IBJ has eclipsed the Indianapolis Star in the amount of actual news published. The Star, which is (theoretically) our city’s general interest newspaper, has reported less and less information about local government, and less news in general; the IBJ has increasingly filled the gap. The IBJ has also “picked up” reporters, columnists and others who have been downsized or otherwise left the Star. (Disclosure: I’m one of them–I moved to the IBJ a few years ago.)

Most of these additions have added to the depth of Business Journal coverage. And virtually all of them–Left or Right–have displayed civility and respect for those who hold contrary opinions. The paper’s Forefront feature, especially, adds to readers’ understanding of contentious issues by including opposing perspectives by political figures and others with knowledge of the matters being considered.

Then there’s Varvel, long a cartoonist for the Star, and more recently given an occasional column that was not well-received, according to one editor with whom I spoke.

I don’t know Varvel personally, but I’ve seen his work and heard the stories.

I still recall a conversation I had years ago with a friend, a Star reporter who worked alongside Varvel. The reporter’s sister had given birth to a highly anticipated baby who died shortly thereafter, and the family was grief-stricken. Varvel took it upon himself to explain to my friend–evidently at some length– that the death was God’s will.

To say that this tone-deaf intrusion did not endear him to his coworker would be an understatement.

That said–whether it was Latinos coming through the window to invade the home of nice white folks, or the portrayal of Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford demanding M&Ms and roses (for which the Star issued an apology), or the columns defending Trump, attributing gun violence to moral decay and not the wide availability of guns, or objecting to a school’s policy requiring respect for transgender students–you certainly always knew where Varvel was coming from.

As a column in NUVO, Indianapolis’ alternative newspaper, put it after the Latino cartoon:

It’s no surprise that an editorial cartoon by The Indianapolis Star’s Gary Varvel was removed from the newspaper’s website over the weekend. The cartoon portrays an Hispanic family climbing in through the window of the home of a white family celebrating Thanksgiving. The white father, with a plate full of turkey in his hands, wears a glum expression as he says, “Thanks to the president’s immigration order, we’ll be having extra guests this Thanksgiving.”

Considering Varvel’s often bigoted opinions on politics and race, I’m surprised this kind of thing hasn’t happened before.

Since the IBJ has championed the importance of inclusiveness and diversity, the decision to add Varvel ranks right up there with Notre Dame’s decision to treat Ryan as an economist.

Mystifying.

 

And This is Supposed to be Good News?

The average amount of time Indy folks spend commuting hasn’t increased since last year, according to the IBJ. The headline suggests that this is a positive finding. We should all cheer.

An Indianapolis commuter spends an average of 41 hours in freeway delays during rush hour each year, according to a study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Forty-one hours–an entire week of one’s life, each and every year–spent behind the wheel, looking at someone else’s tail lights.

What could you do with that week? Read a book, play with your children, volunteer for a charity…sleep? Make love?

I’ve always had difficulty understanding the folks who live in far-flung suburbs, and willingly trade convenience for the privilege of mowing more grass. My own commute is less than 2 miles, and during rush hour can take up to 8 minutes, so I’m not the most empathetic person to be commenting on the waste of time involved. But let’s do a thought experiment: what if Indianapolis had real mass transit?

By “real,” I mean public transportation with 5 or at most 10-minute headways, on clean and comfortable trains or buses with wi-fi. Such a transportation system wouldn’t just improve the environment by saving lots of carbon emissions. It wouldn’t just jump-start the local economy by getting employees to work. It wouldn’t just encourage smart urban growth.

It would give that average Indianapolis commuter a week of his or her life back. Every year.

The grass aficionados could have their cake and eat it too: they could spend their commuting week reading, emailing, working–or just listening to music. Or sleeping. (Sex probably isn’t an option.)

If I were one of the people spending a week of every year stuck in traffic, I’d be down at the Indiana Statehouse demanding the right to hold a referendum. And if the micro-managing legislators actually allowed us a measure of self-determination, I’d beat the drums for a positive vote–and my chance to recapture that lost week.