Pete Buttigieg to Michigan—Tom McDermott for Amy Coney Barrett?—Inside the new Indiana Capital Chronicle
Plus: How South Bend is reacting to abortion news.
In this edition: Scroll down to read Democratic Senate candidate TOM MCDERMOTT’S surprising take on whether he would’ve voted to confirm his fellow University of Notre Dame Law School alum Justice AMY CONEY BARRETT. PLUS: Why Transportation PETE BUTTIGIEG is changing his voter registration from Indiana to Michigan. ALSO: Read an exclusive interview with NIKI KELLY, editor-in-chief for Indiana Capital Chronicle, the new non-profit news outlet that will be essential reading during the Indiana General Assembly’s coming special session on abortion restrictions on July 25.
In the post-GOP convention period in the final days of June, Fort Wayne businessman and gubernatorial candidate Eric Doden outraised his possible competitor Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch $177,500 to $65,000.
Rep. Jim Banks has a plan to fight against the January 6 Committee.
Indiana Democrats are facing a tough November, but not for a lack of a 92-county strategy. As of last week, Hoosier Democrats have held more than 120 events in more than 65 counties over the last year under Chairman Mike Schmuhl.
Indiana has a local news problem. Lean newsrooms and shuttered newspapers around the state are contributing to a decline in civic engagement.
A report released recently by the Local News Initiative at my alma mater Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism had further bad news for local news. “Since 2005, the country has lost more than a fourth of its newspapers (2,500) and is on track to lose a third by 2025,” according to the report.
Enter the newly launched Indiana Capital Chronicle, a nonprofit startup from the States Newsroom, the group’s 28th outlet in its network.
“Plenty of newspapers have shuttered bureaus and daily coverage by television and radio has also declined,” Capital Chronicle Editor-in-Chief Niki Kelly told me. Kelly has assembled a staff of three—which makes it the largest newsroom in the state specifically covering Indiana state government full time.
The staff off of the Indiana Capital Chronicle. Courtesy of Niki Kelly, second from left.
“We’re thrilled that this team of dedicated journalists will bring free, fact-based reporting to all Hoosiers,” said Chris Fitzsimon, director and publisher of States Newsroom. “America’s biggest and most consequential political battles are happening in state houses across the country, but after decades of downsizing at legacy media outlets, there are fewer reporters to cover the ins and outs of state government. The Indiana Capital Chronicle will help bolster the Hoosier State’s press corps and ensure that the important stories coming out of Indianapolis are getting the coverage they deserve.”
In an interview, Kelly revealed the most interesting Hoosier politician she’s covered and dishes about what it’s been like to cover the rise of Rep. Jim Banks from state senator to bomb-throwing firebrand in the U.S. House.
After so long at the Journal Gazette—26 years—what compelled you to join States Newsroom and start something new?
Everyone needs a new challenge, and this was an unexpected – and perfect – opportunity that would let me stay in the Statehouse world I love so much and use all my institutional knowledge. Starting something from the ground up was also an exciting prospect, as well as getting to work closely with reporters to make their copy and reporting the best it can be.
What's it like to launch with a very rare and consequential special session over abortion unfolding at the same time of your launch?
I would be lying if I said launching in the middle of summer was a bit daunting. It is usually a slow time for state government coverage. The addition of a special session gives us a way to quickly show our value. But more importantly it means more eyes are watching at this important time.
How did the launch go? Any metrics—such as open rates or subscribers—you can share with me?
I don’t have anything for comparison and honestly haven’t even looked at metrics much. I want to focus more on doing good journalism and believe that will translate into readers. What drew me to States Newsroom - along with editorial independence - was their focus on quality journalism over metrics. The kind of web traffic or social media engagement we’re getting is a tertiary thought in this model. Our priorities are to make sure stories in the Statehouse aren’t going uncovered and ensuring the big stories that affect our fellow Hoosiers are getting the thoughtful, fact-based coverage they deserve. For me as a journalist in our new click-driven world, it’s been incredibly refreshing to just focus on doing good reporting.
What I will say is that I have been thrilled at the warm reception and messages we have received from Hoosiers who have been concerned about the decline of local media in our state. It’s exciting to hit the ground running and bolster the volume of stories on our state’s government coming out of Indianapolis.
How much money is behind this effort? Are there future plans to scale up?
We won’t get into the weeds on our budget any more than AP or NPR would. This is really a philanthropic effort to support local news and we already have reader support, so we’re fortunate to have the funding to sustain our newsroom.
Ideally, we’d love to grow our team and cover more of the issues affecting Indiana, but there aren’t definite plans in the works to grow beyond our newsroom of four at the moment.
What does it mean for you to be a non-partisan outlet? Can your reporters express personal views on issues such as abortion, or march in a Pride Parade, for example?
A reporter should never bring their personal beliefs to their coverage and of course should never advocate for or against an issue or candidate. Our job is to follow the facts and report them accurately for our readers. Attending an event such as a Pride parade is not partisan but an expression of identity, just like attending a St. Patrick’s Day parade. States Newsroom also has an ethics policy for its reporters that is strictly enforced to ensure fair, accurate, and ethical non-partisan reporting.
Who is the most interesting Indiana politician you've covered in your career?
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