Gannett & Republicans Lose Temper

During an awkward post-election moment, the executive editor of The StarPress, Lisa Nellessen-Lara, got into an online argument with several local citizens about the “lack of class” displayed at democrat headquarters for chanting a song about the outgoing mayor. Her comment on Facebook was, “Dem headquarters break out in “Ding, dong, the wicked witch is dead. Zero class.”

The post prompted over 49 comments from local citizens, mostly questioning the lack of class demonstrated by Ms. Nellessen-Lara as they demanded video proof. She banned several citizens from her site, including the daughters of city council incumbent, Mary Jo Barton. Today, the executive editor is implementing new policies for posting in the online newspaper, hoping to silence readers in another move of, “it’s never our fault!”

At the same time Lisa Nellessen-Lara was bantering with local citizens about lack of civility, and banning online members from her TSP Editor Facebook page, the republican party, headed by Will Statom, was ejecting the Muncie Free Press from entering the republican “after election party.” The Free Press was trying to interview Sharon McShurley, following her loss to Dennis Tyler, but was asked to leave by Will Statom. Mr. Statom is not a newcomer to brawls with the press. Several years ago, Mr. Statom assaulted TSP reporter, Nick Werner, inside one of our county buildings after a public meeting had gone wrong.

As we mentioned earlier this week, the strong connection between the republican party, the Gannett owned newspaper (The StarPress), and the Delaware County Good Government Group (DCGGG) was never more clear than this past week. Larry Riley, who is a proud member of DCGGG, has been polishing his spin of Sharon McShurley for nearly four years, but even the ‘larger than life’ image he presents in his columns written for The StarPress, he could not hand her a victory against the local democrat, and state representative, Dennis Tyler.

Even DCGGG leader, Chris Hiatt entered the fray yesterday for badgering voters at the polls. In our last local election, his fellow DCGGG member, Doug Eckerty (R) misled voters, and used smear tactics against Sue Errington (D), to win the State Senator seat. The StarPress helped him correct the “errors” the night before the election, and buried the apology within another article on the page 3.

So dirty politics continues, but it’s the republican party who showed their lack of civility. They will most likely be granted the use of The StarPress for damage control.

If memory serves us correctly, didn’t they use the Muncie Action Plan (MAP) process to force civility on our community? Members of the DCGGG demanded that city council treat them civility.

It looks like the local republican party, and The Starpress, with their accompanying “political action committee” called the Delaware County for Good Government Group, needs to take a refresher course of their own. While elections are important to our community, there is no need for taking it to the level we have seen recently.

It must be disheartening for a newspaper the size of Gannett to use their media influence to sway voters, and then have it backfire on them. As we have pointed out several times, a Pew Research study says that only 20% of the population believes what they read in the newspaper. In Muncie, it’s much less, and the local readers/voters did not accept the image portrayed by writers Keith Roysdon, Doug Walker, and Larry Riley – it was a sign of desperation, yet it fell on deaf ears, or should we say, blind-folded eyes.

For more about the incident involving Muncie Free Press, and the republican chair, Will Statom, read their online story here.

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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.


  1. The incident you are talking about Chris Hiatt badgering voters simply did not happen. I worked that poll with several others and none of us were rude to anyone nor did we force any election material on them. I feel that there was some other type of vendetta going on against Chris. Before election day I had never personally met the man and when I was told that was who he was you could have knocked me over with a feather. He was being helpful to the elderly voters that were on canes, and other devices trying to hlep them get into the building since the voting officials did not see fit to make the place handicap accessible. After about 10AM we as elections workers stationed outside were no longer allowed in the building to use the bathroom. Talk about being rude now that was rude. Maybe next year we should bring a port a john! Now wouldnt that be a pretty site. For a change it would be nice if everyone werent such cry babies. Your candidates got beat get over it.

  2. Will Statom shouldn’t be allowed near politics. I have never dealt with anyone who was so unethical in his business dealings. Smh. Disgusted.

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