“I’ve been through this before, where CNN and all the networks come in,” Corrigan said, recalling his experience covering the Rodeo-Chediski Wildfire at a small newspaper in Arizona in 2002. “The thing that really irritated us the most was the police were really enamored of the television. They were taking them places they wouldn’t take us, so we had to raise a stink about that. We had to remind him that when these guys leave, we’re still here.”
This time, Corrigan delivered the same message to Shelbyville police, in advance: “I said: ‘Don’t do that to us. We are the ones you depend on week to week. If somebody’s done something bad, you want it in our paper, so maybe you can find ’em. Just remember we’re the ones that are here all the time.’ And they seemed okay. They understand.”
The Times-Gazette lacks the resources of larger news outlets dropping in. Corrigan somehow puts together a print edition six days a week with a staff of “four old white guys,” as he describes the team. Those four have about 65 years of combined experience covering Shelbyville, which gives the Times-Gazette a certain advantage of its own.
“I went down and ate breakfast at Barb’s diner [Thursday] morning at 5 a.m. to talk to the boys who are in there every morning,” Corrigan said. “That’s the kind of story we’ve been doing leading up to it, as much as we can.”
Corrigan is the newest member of the staff, having arrived in May after spending 35 years at local papers in other states, but he still feels that he has an edge over visiting reporters from New York and Washington.
“After so many years of working in small towns, and an earlier part of my life working in the trades, I’ve never had difficulty getting people to talk to me,” he said. “It’s something you just learn — how to talk to people who are regular folks. No offense to city people, but a lot of city people just don’t have that skill.”
Corrigan knows, for example, that Barb's Corner Cafe will have to close Saturday because of the demonstration, which is a big hit to the business because the Saturday breakfast rush normally brings in twice as much revenue as a weekday service. He knows that the Albea Americas factory, which manufactures toothpaste tubes, has hired armed guards to ward off would-be vandals.
He knows that those cops he sat down with have spent about $10,000 of taxpayer money on riot gear that they didn't own before and never thought they would need.
The Times-Gazette did not buy similar equipment for its reporters.
“We didn’t get any helmets or anything,” Corrigan said. “We didn’t hire armed guards. I’m old, but I’m a pretty fast runner.”