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.
One 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.