January 25, 2019

The toll on this city

There were 161 homicides in Indianapolis in 2018. That was a record for that city.

The previous record was set in 2017. The record before that: 2016. And before that: 2015.

“Indianapolis is facing a crisis,’’ writes Alvie Lindsay, the news and investigations director at the IndyStar.

Over the past four years, Indianapolis police have opened more than 600 homicide investigations. Seeing such alarming numbers, IndyStar reporters Ryan Martin, who covers public safety, and James Briggs, who covers city hall, went to the bosses with an idea: a year-long project to explore violence in Indianapolis.

That project, called “The Toll,’’ is underway.

“We needed to be proactive with really impactful storytelling that would actually give people an understanding of what’s happening in our community,’’ Lindsay told Poynter on Thursday. “There are so many different angles to this story.’’

It’s quite an undertaking, as the IndyStar will spend time with crime victims, police, probation officers, prosecutors, church leaders, social service workers, judges, criminals, business owners, watch groups, gun buyers and sellers, citizens of the city and elected officials.

Speaking of elected officials, Lindsay points out that there is a mayor’s race in Indianapolis this year.

“This topic will be a big part of that race,’’ Lindsay said.

Aside from stories, The Toll also is producing a weekly newsletter that has been coming out for three weeks now. Other reporters will join Martin and Briggs on the project.

“It all speaks to just how important this problem is,’’ Lindsay said. “We want to give people the best information possible as we try to understand what is happening.’’

Nathan Phillips’ turn

One day after interviewing Nick Sandmann, the Covington Catholic High School student who had a confrontation with a Native American elder in Washington, D.C., last week, the “Today’’ show and co-host Savannah Guthrie interviewed that elder, Nathan Phillips.

You can see the interview here.

When asked what he thought about Sandmann’s “Today’’ interview on Wednesday, Phillips said, “Coached and written up for him. Insincerity. Lack of responsibility Those are the words I came up with, but then I went to go pray about it. And then I woke up, and I woke up with this forgiving heart. So I forgive him.’’

Layoffs at HuffPost

The layoffs have begun at HuffPost. The HuffPost confirmed the news Thursday, one day after its parent company, Verizon Media, announced it would cut 7 percent of its staff. The HuffPost put the number of Thursday’s layoffs at “about 20.’’ Not all names were immediately known, but several now-former HuffPost employees announced their departures on Twitter. They include Jason Cherkis, who was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 2016, and Bryan Maygers, the head of opinion at HuffPost. According to CNN, Maygers said he was told HuffPost’s “opinion section is no more.’’

Reporters Nick Wing and Laura Bassett also are among the layoffs.

In a statement on HuffPost, editor-in-chief Lydia Polgreen said, “It’s a tough day for HuffPost, and we’re losing some talented and beloved colleagues. We are deeply committed to quality journalism that reflects what matters most to our diverse audiences across the globe. HuffPost is aligning its talents and investments to areas that have high audience engagement, differentiation and are poised for growth at a time when our mission means more than ever.”

The news came one day after massive cuts at Gannett and reports that BuzzFeed will soon undergo layoffs.

Big brother

How would you like it if everything you did at work was being live-streamed on the internet? Sounds a little dicey, but that’s exactly what Sky News is going to do to mark its 30th anniversary. The British news organization will post 32 cameras plus microphones throughout the newsroom to record everything that happens for one day. That day has yet to be determined.

The point is to take audiences inside a newsroom, but it’s hard to imagine the audience will get a truly authentic experience. After all, you would have to believe those in the newsroom will be fully aware that they are being watched. Still, could be fun — for the viewers.

Chris Hansen off the hook

Last week, I wrote how Chris Hansen, best known for his “To Catch a Predator’’ reporting, had been arrested for bouncing a pair of checks to cover a nearly $13,000 bill for merchandise for a marketing event. Well, prosecutors have dropped the charges, according to TMZ, after Hansen made good on the payments.

Bet on it

The AP Stylebook, which writers and editors use as a guide for proper use of grammar, style and definitions in their stories, added a bunch of new terms and words this week to deal with sports gambling. Last May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could decide for themselves whether to allow gambling on sports. It’s only a matter of time before most, if not all, of the country has legalized sports gambling.

Many of the words are fairly common and understandable even to novices: gambling, sportsbook, betting odds, favorite, underdog, upset. But many of the terms are obscure to non-sports gamblers: chalk, juice, sucker bet and push.

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
Tom Jones

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