Bil Browning

Indiana Word stumbles over media discovers journalism

Filed By Bil Browning | October 20, 2009 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Media

It must be hell to be the publisher of an advertising circular masquerading as a community newspaper these days. With all the competition from bloggers and social media, the days of the Indiana Word are probably numbered.

20081125_deathwatch_250x250.jpgOne of the biggest complaints you hear about the birdcage liner is how little original reporting it does compared to the constant wire service reports and ads for bath houses, bars and realtors. In previous posts, Bilerico contributors have bemoaned the Word's lack of editorial focus and stories relevant to the Indiana LGBT community. You won't find coverage of Indiana's crucial role in passing LGBT legislation at a federal level, comparisons of local LGBT media coverage, or any build up to last week's National Equality March in previous issues of the "newspaper."

Suddenly, however, the bar rag has discovered their last vestige of journalism for a local story several area media sources - blogs, radio, and the Indy Star - reported on weeks ago. Sadly, the paper stumbles badly right out of the gate. Of course, this isn't surprising since publisher Ted Fleischaker can only muster up a half-assed asinine editorial, a repetitive gossip column aimed at his enemies and a restaurant review most months.

Why? Because this time Fleischaker can try to settle a few vendettas at the same time.

This time around the notoriously ridiculous publisher has targeted one of his oldest "enemies" in the LGBT community - fellow contributor Marla Stevens. While Marla lived in Indianapolis, she and Fleischaker had several spats about Fleischaker's poor reporting skills and egomaniacal fights with various LGBT leaders and organizations.

Marla's partner, Phyllis Stevens, has been accused of embezzling almost six million dollars from her former employer, insurance giant Aviva. Marla has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing, although Aviva has filed a civil suit against the couple seeking restitution.

As a frequent target of Fleischaker's ire through the years, Marla's connection to Bilerico has him smelling blood in the water. The other media reports have spoon-fed him the story and all that's required is his usual added touch of manipulating the facts to suit his purpose.

Fleischaker uses British spelling for his Midwestern paper because it makes him feel superior since he idolizes British culture and history. In an e-mailed media inquiry to me, he takes it a step further and actually uses the "Royal We" to highlight his basic lack of knowledge about online publishing.

"We saw the original story on your blog regarding Phyllis' and Marla's charges in Iowa, but notice this is now gone and does not show in any of the archives or elsewhere on your site today," Fleischaker wrote. "We notice that Marla is no longer shown as a contributor to Bilerico. Was she fired, suspended or did she quit and when did this happen? Why?"

It's as if some nefarious group of internet cleaner-uppers came by and removed all traces of Marla, isn't it? *gasp!*

Sadly, nothing nearly that cool is going on. Fleischaker's paper publishes once a month and is stuck with stale news on his front page until the next issue comes out. Blogs, however, post daily and feature quite a few stories per day. The older a post gets, the further it gets pushed down the page by newer material. Eventually it falls of the front and into the archives.

If that's too difficult for Fleischaker to grasp, let me try an easier solution. Type "Phyllis Stevens" in the search box and you'll be taken to the post about her arrest. These search boxes are common on this thing called "webpages" and they allow you to find information you're looking for!

Fleischaker's second question is just as laughable. Clicking "Contributors" will give you a page with all of our current and former bloggers. Marla Stevens is clearly listed. While Fleischaker says Marla has been charged in Iowa, he has his facts wrong (again). She's not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing and is still a contributor should she choose to exercise the opportunity.

If Ted Fleischaker can't find a blog post with the help of a search box, or even a link to Marla Steven's profile page, how can we ever expect him to put out a newspaper containing, well, news? Fleischaker hasn't been able to muster one intelligent paragraph about any of the major LGBT rights issues facing the nation or the state. The extent of his "reporting" is restaurant reviews and a gossip column that allows him to hide behind his two pet cats as a screen for saying negative things about people that have upset him.

The Indiana Word is a poor excuse for a community newspaper. The rag has been for sale for years but no one wants to pay the exorbitant price Fleischaker wants for a sub-par product in a dying industry.

In the right hands, Indiana could have a kick-ass community newspaper. The Word, however, is not now - and never will be - that publication.

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I see your former regular rants against Advance Indiana have now been replaced with rants against The Word. While I find issues with both AI and The Word, the "bitter queen" criticisms do nothing to further discussion or lead to constructive change in Indy.

Sure, they make you feel better and superior. But they also make evident why the right has always been able to use divide and conquer tactics against us.

I think you are better than this. If you are not better than this, you should strive to be.

Your mileage may vary.

Why are you defending the indefensible? Have you written a letter to Ted at the Word to tell him how disappointed you are that he attacks people who've pissed him off through his gossip column? Or how he has repeatedly chosen to ignore the most important LGBT issues in favor of printing lies and innuendo about members of the community?

Did you leave a comment to tell Gary Welsh to stop threatening lawsuits against fellow bloggers for calling him on his bullshit conspiracy theories?

I'm doubtful.

Who's defending anyone? I was commenting on your lack of taste and rising to the bait-but nice diversion.

I recognize The Word for the fluff it is. It's an entertaining 15 minutes read once a month, if I remember to pick it up.

And no, I didn't tell Welsh to stop threatening lawsuits. You guys seemed to love writing about it and the attention it got you, so I figured you were cool with it.

Maybe I "attack" you because I expect better out of someone who clearly insinuates in the post above they are Indiana's GLBTs news leader.

Whether one is in Bloomington, Indy, Los Angeles, SF, or anywhere else, I have always found top editors using their own LGBT news medium as a stage for their latest pet local pissing match to be boring, not to mention embarrassingly unprofessional. Any such campaign quickly loses all substance and degenerates into a religious war of egos.

Remember when Dan Rather made his gaff regarding George W's National Guard documents? Tom Brokaw at NBC and Peter Jennings at ABC did not piss on him in public. If they thought Rather or CBS made this mistake or that, they said so, but they did not insult Rather personally, perform character assassination, or badmouth a competing news operation as if they wanted it to go out of business.

You might use that as an example of how to behave professionally during your own media controversies. And if others act unprofessionally, that cannot be an excuse for you to do likewise.

At least The Word still maintains its focus on LGBT issues. Gary Welsh has been scared back into the closet by his GOP fetish and doesn't deal with that "faggy stuff" anymore except to beat up on lesbians. AI has gone hardcore teabagger wingnut "birther". His extremism now exceeds even Eric Miller or Jim Bopp. He maintains his old style of a vicious bitter queen while "passing" for str8 bigot and hater.

Wilson, I completely agree with you about Gary - but saying the Word is focused on LGBT issues is kinda like saying Genre or Out magazine is a great source hard news and political discourse. They've not covered any major national LGBT issues, like ENDA, DADT or Hate Crimes beyond wire reports (if that.)

They've spoon fed the Indiana Equality talking points on everything local. There is no reporting, no news. At least when Gary puts something on his hateful website, it has a hint news to it.

There is no dissenting opinion allowed in that paper. There are no comments because they don't have a real website. And I've heard stories of some rather heavy-handed editorial control over the few columnists willing to write for the rag.

The Word's focus is on the bar crowd. Lots of flashy ads with half-naked and booze, a lot of fluff articles, a bitter gossip column, and a bare pittance of news watered down enough to be understood after a few cocktails.

Ugh. The Word is an EMBARASSMENT even to BAR RAGS everywhere. In Detroit our GLOSSY bar pic mags don't pretend to be something they aren't, yet they are published weekly and cover politics on a much higher level than "The Turd" does.

The gossip column of "The Turd" is the worst. REDEFINES bitter, and creepy for sure. Doing the gossip column in the 'voice' of the housecat is just sad and a little frightening. Its not a gimmick, its a cry for help. The podcast version is even scarier. The computerized British accent just makes me picture some sociopathic serial killer trapped behind a labyrinth of computer monitors wrapping up severed heads in gift boxes. Its the audio equivalent of the 'ransom note' font.

I don't think that Bilerico is necessarily the REPLACEMENT of "The Turd." I think this is a whole different animal. However, Indy's LGBT community would be well-served by an ownership/leadership change over at "The Turd," as its a joke of a publication at this point.

Last I checked, I can get bathhouse ads on Craigslist and wire stories from AP's site. Both are free. Why I would pay money for these things?

As a bar rag, The Word delivers ads and gossip. As a community paper, it lacks any journalistic integrity. Any attempt to position it otherwise is just plain wrong.