Sunday, October 3, 2010

Cady book takes a look at Star's colorful past

If there were ever a time for a newspaper memoir, this would be it – a battered industry, diminished by nearly half its revenue and thousands of newsroom hands, ought to welcome a look to its more colorful past.

Dick Cady’s new book, “Deadline: Indianapolis, The Story Behind the Stories at the Pulliam Press,” (, $19.95), does what a good memoir should do – share stories.

Cady has four decade’s worth of tales. The former Indianapolis Star investigative reporter and columnist helped win the newspaper a Pulitzer Prize in the early 1970s for reporting on police corruption, along with more than 50 local, state and national awards, including the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award.

His book takes readers behind the scenes as those stories took shape, revealing formerly off-the-record information for the first time, in some cases.

Cady reflected on the changes in the city and its newspaper before a book-signing at Bookmamas in Irvington on Saturday (Oct. 2).

Readers of “Deadline” will find a tumultuous business as different from today’s newsrooms as a Wild West show is from a tea social.

Cady’s first day at The Star in 1962 reads like something Ben Hecht might have typed.

“The afternoon trickled by. I was in the men’s room when a craggy-faced gentleman in his sixties came in,” he writes.

“Ignoring me, he opened the towel dispenser, seized a bottle of gin and took a healthy gulp. ‘Arthritis,’ photo editor Don McClure explained. After restoring his medicine to its hiding place, he began telling me about his Navy days.”

The Indianapolis of nearly 50 years ago was a bleaker, monochromatic place with no professional sports and little downtown energy or nightlife, Cady says.

And while in recent years city police have made news in several lurid episodes, including a fatal alcohol-involved crash in broad daylight, the department is surely more serene than the force back then.

When it comes to police, “there’s a difference between institutionalized and systematic (corruption),” Cady said.

“Certain things with police officers and police departments are going to happen. But in the early part of the 20th century up to the 1950s and ‘60s, it became part of the system. It was pretty widespread and pretty entrenched.”

Today, the police are better behaved but the newspaper that watches them has fewer resources to do its job. Cady laments the changes in the news business.

“For most of my career in journalism, newspapers were the kings,” he writes.

“Then the rise of TV news, accelerated by cable and satellite, and the growth of the Internet doomed most afternoon papers and forced many of the morning dallies to change.

“To survive some of them adapted cereal-box formats, emphasizing style, color and graphics with shorter, puffier stories.”

While those changes occurred nearly everywhere, Cady focuses on his former newspaper and names the editors he blames for the decline. As a result, this is the kind of book that insiders open at the end first, looking for an index to see if they’re named.

There is no index, but the writer is thorough. If they were in charge, they’re here.

(Dick Cady’s next book-signing is at the Holiday Author Fair on Dec. 4 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Indiana Historical Society, 450 W. Ohio St., Indianapolis.)

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