JG’accuse! The newspaper that didn’t understand baseball

baseball cards

We’re a little late to the game, but this wild pitch by the local newspaper requires us to look at the tape.

The accusation was brutal. The publisher of Fort Wayne’s morning newspaper, The Journal Gazette, wrote an open letter to city councilman Jason Arp scolding him for a postcard that “invited violence” against journalists:

Your large postcard featured you gripping a baseball bat and included, in capital letters, the phrase: “BEAT THE MEDIA.” There were four references to The Journal Gazette, the only media identified by name.

At best, it was disappointing and inappropriate, especially from an elected official. Do you not remember the murders of five staff members and the wounding of two others at The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland, just over a year ago? The alleged shooter in that case, angry with the newspaper’s coverage, pleaded guilty to the shootings just last Monday.

Why would you tie your campaign message to the bat-wielding photo and language that not so covertly invited violence?

With such a stunning charge, you would think a photo of the offending flyer would be blazoned across the page so the whole city could see the offense.

That did not happen. If you are a subscriber who lives outside of Arp’s Fourth District, you would never have seen the troubling card. Instead, other media in town had to pick up the slack to give Fort Wayne residents a chance to see the picture for themselves.

Below is the postcard of the bat-wielding councilman:

OK, so before I wind up my pitch about this postcard, here are my caveats:

Yes, I am friends with Jason Arp. Yes, I did in a sense just “endorse” him right before the election. On the other hand, I have also worked for Fort Wayne Newspapers, albeit for the mostly departed News-Sentinel. I have a lot of former colleagues from my time at FWN. If it comes down to journalist vs. politician, my sympathies are completely on the side of the media.

But the JG’s accusation is bonkers.

The bat-wielding Derek Jeter

The accusation is so ludicrous that it’s hard to know where to begin. Arp used baseball metaphors — while the World Series was all over the media — to show how he sees the morning paper as an opponent that he needs to defeat to win re-election.

You really might not like a politician naming a media organization as an opponent to be defeated. But beating the media in this case is simply shown to mean winning an election. It’s right there on the card.

To be sure, the “Beat the Media!” tag at the bottom of the card is clumsy because The JG is the only media mentioned and no other media made a point to oppose Arp. The JG by no means equals “the media.”

But Arp’s photo on the postcard is obviously that of a baseball card, which is about as innocent and American of a pose as you could want.

I can imagine that last year’s murders at The Capital Gazette would put working journalists on edge. That is perfectly reasonable and can explain some portion of this reaction.

But The JG’s accusation is clearly overblown. Strong political disagreeents are one thing. Accusations of violent intent are quite another.

Jon Swerens is a longtime Fort Wayne resident and editor of The Prow.

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Vote for the contrarian: Jason Arp

Fort Wayne’s Fourth District needs to keep this vocal fiscal conservative on City Council.

If I were writing an endorsement my friend, Fort Wayne District 4 Councilman Jason Arp, I couldn’t do much better than this:

He has been swimming against the tide of progressive local government since his election to the council in 2015. Often joined by District 1 Republican Paul Ensley, Arp has consistently opposed the aggressive economic development plans a bipartisan coalition of council members and the Democratic administration have supported.

Arp considers the tax-abatement process a system of picking “winners and losers,” and contends projects such as The Landing and Electric Works essentially take money from taxpayers and give it to private developers. He says many of his constituents share his skepticism. 

Arp … prefers a minimalist approach to government that would focus on neighborhood infrastructure and public-safety services needs and let the unfettered free market determine the community’s economic fate.

But this was written by The Journal Gazette as a criticism by the editorial board as it worked its way toward an endorsement of Arp’s primary opponent, Rachel Lott.

It’s no surprise that the traditionally Democratic JG would endorse the more progressive candidate, and it did in both the primary and general election.

But of all the races in Fort Wayne this year, why would the Fourth District race be the second-most expensive one in the city, trailing only the mayor’s race?

It’s not because the incumbent Republican councilman in a Republican district gathered a lot of extra campaign cash to defeat a weak Democrat nominee. Instead, the opposite is true. It’s the opposing Democrat who has the slick website, a well-produced video, and deep pockets. The Democrat, Patti Hays, has raised almost $70,000 versus the $31,000 that Arp has accumulated.

Why is there so much money in opposition to the incumbent Arp? I believe The Journal Gazette quote from above describes the issue perfectly:

Arp has consistently opposed the aggressive economic development plans a bipartisan coalition of council members and the Democratic administration have supported.

So the voters of the Fourth District have a clear choice.

Do they want someone who will act on true conservative principles, even if these principles go against the wishes of his own allies? Someone who will ask the difficult questions and do his best to protect the taxpayer when special interests ask for handouts?

Or do they want the city’s “aggressive economic development” approved with 8-1 votes rather than 7-2 votes? Honestly, why bother voting for that?

Fort Wayne needs a councilman willing to question spending in the face of an increasingly progressive city government. I hope my friends in the Fourth District vote to give Jason Arp another term on Fort Wayne City Council — for the good of every taxpayer in the city.

Jon Swerens is a longtime Fort Wayne resident and editor of The Prow.

The questionable ‘fifth-safest city’ statistic

Is Fort Wayne really the fifth-safest city in the country? Close inspection shows the claim is bogus — times four.

Mayor Tom Henry’s campaign says that “Fort Wayne is the fifth-safest city in the country” with the connotation that citizens are safe from crime. But that statement doesn’t live up to the hype. Below are four reasons the statement is bogus — and they get worse as we go.

1. The statistic includes much more than only crime.

As cited by the Henry campaign, this statistic comes from a web site called InsuranceProviders.com. But as that website states on the web page, three categories were weighed when determining what cities land in its safety Top Ten:

  • Crime
  • Likelyhood of natural disaster
  • Driving safety

The site goes so far as to say, “You’d think crime rates would have a major influence on safety, but that isn’t the case.”

For another example, City No. 8 is described like this:

El Paso comes in at number eight in two ways: driving a little more safely (with 9.6 years between wrecks), and sheer luck: it’s a lot less likely to fall victim to a disaster. But, hey, there’s always room for improvement.

No mention of crime at all in that quote. In fact, the entire Top Ten list is made up of entries that tell the reader that lack of crime is far from the only rationale for placement on the list.

2. The statistic likely covers the previous mayor.

Much has been said about the fact that this InsuranceProviders.com article is from March 2012, more than seven years ago, and thus too far in the past to matter.

That’s bad enough. But the article is so old that it likely does not cover any of the years Mayor Tom Henry has been in office.

Go online today, and you’ll see that the most recent crime statistics available from the U.S. Department of Justice are from 2014, five years ago. Since the InsuranceProviders.com article was written in 2012, its crime statistics likely were from 2007 and earlier — a year before Mayor Henry first took office on Jan. 1, 2008.

So was Fort Wayne really the fifth-safest city in the country when Mayor Graham Richard was in office from 2000-2007? We can’t even say that because of the next two points.

3. The statistic uses unverifiable numbers.

The InsuranceProviders.com article gives us no way to confirm its numbers. It simply mentions numerous sources — the FBI, the United States Geological Survey, NOAA, and Allstate.

Certainly, these are well-known and verifiable names. But the problem is we are not told how these various numbers were added up in this website’s aggregation. We have no idea how much one statistic was weighed versus another. We don’t even know if all of the data were from the same time period.

There is absolutely no way to double-check the math. And as we see below, there is no one to even ask.

4. The statistic is from a sketchy source.

Is InsuranceProviders.com a good source for rankings of safe cities? Who has ever heard of Insurance Providers before this article was published in 2012, or since? What kind of organization is Insurance Providers? There is no information on the website’s footer or About page indicating an address or even a purpose of the business — if it ever was an actual business.

As far as I can tell, InsuranceProviders.com was never a standalone business at all. Instead, this was simply a website built to bring readers to its articles for the sole purpose of tossing them over to QuoteWizard.com (now a LendingTree company) for insurance quotes — and I presume some sort of finder’s fee for the site owner.

The InsuranceProviders.com domain is owned by 360 Quote LLC, another company that does not display its actual location or function.

Such websites are not illegal or even unethical, but there is nothing about such ventures that confer authority to create verifiable articles. How do we know someone friendly to the current administration didn’t create this website to be politically helpful?

Now, I do not think this website has anything to do with anyone in Fort Wayne. There is absolutely no evidence of such. But without independent verification of the truthfulness of the people who wrote the article seven years ago, there is no way to know if there were any kind of quid pro quo.

The statistic that should have been questioned

How did a questionable statistic with an unknowable source become important enough to be used and defended by the mayor?

Mayor Henry has been proclaiming the statistic since his 2012 State of the City Address, so it was natural for his campaign staff to bring this into his marketing materials. But his staff should have been more skeptical of its claims and done some research. Using such a bogus statistic opens the administration for well-deserved criticism.

The claim was popularized by Visit Fort Wayne through this blog post. It’s an example of innocent boosterism that appeals to citizens hungry for good news about their hometown.

But local media should have been skeptical. A little wariness and a few minutes of web searching would have shown that the claims of the InsuranceProviders.com article were way too good to be true.

Jon Swerens is a longtime Fort Wayne resident and editor of The Prow.

Courtney Tritch and ‘religious freedoms’

In Indiana’s Third District, clashing definitions of this foundational liberty put U.S. Rep. Jim Banks and challenger Courtney Tritch on a collision course.

When a politician talks about “investment” and “adjusting tax rates,” it’s time to feel for your wallet.

Likewise, when a politician says we should trade First Amendment freedoms for cash, it’s time to clear your throat, mount a digital soapbox, and ask a few hard questions.

Continue reading “Courtney Tritch and ‘religious freedoms’”

God loves the Naughty List

Here we are at Christmastime, listening to herald angels sing glory to the newborn king. But listen to the angels more closely. In the center of one of the Bible’s most glorious promises of peace, we find an opposite of a promise, too:

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13-14 ESV)

So, wait. Those with whom God is not pleased have no promise of peace from Him? So how do we know with whom God is pleased? Who gets peace, and who doesn’t? Continue reading “God loves the Naughty List”