Muncie Deserves Better, So Dump the Busted Section

MUNCIE, IN – There is no doubt that Muncie is on the move under the leadership of Mayor Dennis Tyler and the very productive economic development staff. There are new projects in all parts of the community with the Village area taking shape, Robert’s Hotel renovation and the downtown hotel project seeing progress. We’ll be seeing more than tulips breaking ground this Spring in Muncie.

Also, if you haven’t heard, the Indiana Tourism Council unveiled our new brand, “Honest to Goodness Indiana”.

Matthew Tully with the IndyStar called it “bad”. I’d call it lame, a throwback to the 1950’s Leave it to Beaver kind of “golly gee whiz everybody”, come to Indiana for some of our hometown goodness. Despite the lack of “wow-ness”, at least they are promoting the good characteristics in Indiana.

Well, you don’t have to worry about the Gannett owned StarPress in Muncie branding a milk toast image – no, they  promote our “bad boys and girls” online so everyone can see their neighbor’s mug shot and read what family member got caught boozing and punching something. It’s Muncie’s online version of Jerry Springer.

Nothing says come to Muncie like our Busted section where our criminals call for a “Featured” spot on the website:

Busted section

So, while the state is branding “Honest to Goodness Indiana”, Muncie’s newspaper wants to promote a different brand – “Thieves R Us” or “Busted in the Rust Belt”. Honestly, I’ve been waiting for the conservative groups in town to ask Gannett to take it down, but for some reason, it remains proudly displayed.

We’ve been told it’s the most read section of their website so they can charge more for advertising. Can you hear the sales staff telling the small business owner, “If you want to sell your product or service, we’d highly recommend putting your branded logo on the Busted page. More people read that than any other page”.

This doesn’t say much for the product you’re putting forth if more people are looking at mug shots over other news and information about the community.

And sure enough, there is a car dealer and flea market ad on the page, and soon we’ll see politician’s on this page. Nothing says “Vote for Me” than being alongside Tommy’s mug shot for smacking around a family member after drinking a fifth of swill.

Even if gawkers do want to see all the drug and alcohol related arrests, it doesn’t mean we have to offer it to them. Sure it makes money, but what’s more important, making money or branding our community in a positive light?

If TSP is truly our community newspaper and wants to build our brand, not embarrass us for profit, they would abandon the Busted section. Do we really need to show the world our troubled neighbors who are sliding around in the bottom of the barrel at the moment?

Here’s the letter I submitted to the editor asking if they’d consider taking down the page – we’ll see if the even print it:

Dump the “Busted” Section

Muncie is seriously on the move with over $100 million in new investments. Most of the people I speak with are extremely happy about the growth near the Mall, plans for the South side of town, University Village and our Downtown projects.

Combining high schools will bring a new era for school centered activities throughout the state. The last Central vs. South basketball game in the Fieldhouse was a positive sign of things to come.

With all the good news around us, our local newspaper insists on publishing a “Busted” section – a page dedicated to Hoosiers who make poor decisions and get caught. A family member’s mug shot on display for all to see.

We now live in an information age where branding is the new media buzzword. What we do and how we do it speaks volumes about our brand. Millions of dollars are spent on brand marketing each year. Having a good brand can send your product soaring, and one slip, or negative appearance can cause your brand to crash in flames.

The Chamber of Commerce spends time and resources marketing our community and our residents. The state recently adopted a new slogan of “Honest to Goodness Indiana” to promote tourism to the world.

TSP claims the “Busted” section makes them money. Is making money off mug shots more important than branding our community in a positive way to tourists and others seeking information about Muncie?

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.

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